Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan
I think the fire changed us – me and Dom. I think that’s how the boy was able to see us. Though he’d been there for every summer of our childhood, we’d only been stupid boys until then. Stupid, happy, ignorant boys. And what in hell would he have had in common with two stupid boys? But after the fire we were different. We were maybe a little bit like him. And so he saw us, at last, and he thought he’d found a home…
A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, somethingis happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together....
Taken by David Massey
The trip of a lifetime turns into a fight to the death when six extreme athletes are taken hostage by pirates off the coast of Africa.
Six crew members are toughing it out, trying to come together as a team to sail around the world on a grueling challenge for charity. Four are teen military veterans disabled in combat: They're used to being pushed to the limit. But nothing could have prepared them for being kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army. Suddenly, the trip of a lifetime turns into a dark journey into the African jungle. Taken hostage by a notorious warlord and his band of child soldiers, how will Rio, Ash, Marcus, Jen, Charis, and Izzy survive?
Play Me Backwards by Adam Selzer
Leon Harris isn't exceptional and he isn't popular. He's the kind of guy that peaked in middle school, when once upon a time he was in the "gifted" program and on the fast track to Ivy League glory.
Now, a high school senior, he's a complete slacker who spends his time hanging out in a third-rate ice cream parlor with his best friend, Stan, a guy who (jokingly, Leon thinks) claims to be Satan. Committed to his sloth, Leon panics when he finds out that Anna, the love of his life aka middle school girlfriend, might be moving back to town.
Determined to get his act together, Leon asks Stan for help. Stan gives him a few seemingly random and mysterious assignments. Date a popular girl. Listen to Moby-Dick, the audiobook. Find the elusive white grape slushee. Join the yearbook committee.
As each task brings Leon one step away from slacker city and one step closer to Anna, he starts to wonder if maybe he shouldn't have promised Stan his soul after all
Feral by Holly Schindler
It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.
But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.
But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Emilia and Teo's lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo's mother died immediately, but Em's survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother's wishes-in a place where he won't be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.
Seeking a home where her children won't be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?
What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
In What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell brings together, for the first time, the best of his writing from The New Yorker over the last decade.
Here you'll find the tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling creations of pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and why it was that employers in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.
The first thing I should say is that Gladwell is a very good writer. Every article in What the Dog Saw was intelligently and clearly written - I can't fault Gladwell for my complete inability to understand the stock market - and he got me to read about things I'm entirely uninterested in.
The second thing I should say is that Gladwell wrote about a lot of uninteresting things. From the workings of Enron to the science of ketchup, there were quite a few articles I wouldn't have read, had I been given the choice. However, I also really liked a number of the articles I might not have read otherwise, and several others were extremely interesting.
Gladwell repeatedly went off on long tangents that were only marginally related to the topic of the articles (like talking about satellite photos in an article on mammograms). Sometimes it worked well, and sometimes it didn't, but it did make some of the drier articles more bearable.
The articles I found most interesting were the ones where Gladwell investigated how something in our society works or explained some bit of human psychology. He explained a number of broken systems we use in our everyday lives and the surprisingly simple solutions elegantly and without condescension. He also explained a few historical events and their impact on the world at large.
What the Dog Saw isn't the most thrilling book in the world, but some of its articles are important to our understanding of the world. For that reason alone, What the Dog Saw is worth the read, even if you don't really love it.
The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson
When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?
It has been almost two weeks since I finished this book, and I'm only now getting around to writing a review for it. This is mostly due to my well-developed ability to procrastinate, but it's also because I don't have a whole lot to say on The Tyrant's Daughter.
Let me clear up a few things: the writing was good, and I enjoyed reading it. The Tyrant's Daughter provided insights into middle-eastern culture, and Laila's experiences in America made me examine my culture a little more closely. This book, if anything, made me even more ashamed of the Americans that call women "terrorists" for wearing their hijab - which is why I recommend this book. The Tyrant's Daughter should be required reading in American high schools, simply because the story it tells is so important.
Important doesn't necessarily mean incredible, though. Laila's story wasn't as strong as it could have been, due mainly to her nonchalant attitude. "Nonchalant" isn't really the right word; Laila narrated her story like it happened a long time ago. It was obvious that she felt something about the events she was retelling, but the emotion was distant. There were a few scenes that made me fairly angry and even a little choked up, but my reaction was more because of the details in the story than the way it was being told. The nonchalance, for lack of a better word, also stole a lot of the suspense from the story, making the climax of the novel seem almost like a non-event.
Laila was relatable as much as she was foreign, and she was a passably complex character. The majority of the other characters had only two sides; they had depth, but they weren't complex. The rest were completely flat. Most of my interest in the characters came from Laila's analysis of them, which was again insightful.
The Tyrant's Daughter is definitely, absolutely worth the read. I give Carleson a lot of credit for tackling this subject and doing a respectably good job with it. The impact of the story is strong; the rest of it is somewhat weak.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn't want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it's important to wait until you're married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, "Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas." Eyes open, legs closed. That's as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don't mind it. I don't necessarily agree with that whole wait until you're married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can't tell my mom that because she will think I'm bad. Or worse: trying to be White.
Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: Cindy's pregnancy, Sebastian's coming out, the cute boys, her father's meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
False Future by Dan Krokos (False Memory #3)
True Earth has returned during a massive snowstorm in Manhattan-and this time they have an army. Rhys, Noble, Sophia, and Peter know they don't stand a chance against the enemy without Miranda. And once they revive her, she's horrified to find her world in flames.
The enemy occupation is brutal, but the director promises to release her hold on the city if Mr. East is turned in, and Miranda and her team are determined to find him. With her grief over the losses she has suffered fueling her spirit, Miranda knows that this time the sacrifices have to be worth it.
Starlight's Edge by Susan Waggoner (Timedance #2)
Zee has given up her entire world to be with David, confident that love and their desire to be together will overcome all obstacles. But is love enough?
Beneath its lustrous surface and dazzling technology, New Earth is full of challenges, including David's wealthy, powerful and highly competitive family, whose plans for David's future don't include anyone like Zee.
As Zee struggles to adapt to her new life, she must also find a way to re-establish her career as an Empath and fledgling Diviner. And then when David vanishes on a mission to Pompeii on the eve of the Vesuvius eruption, Zee realises that he is in mortal danger. Will she be able to rescue him in time?
Storm Siren by Mary Weber
In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.
As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth — meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.
Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.
Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.
But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?
Ghosting by Edith Patton
On a hot summer night in a Midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes altering lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario all too familiar from current real-life headlines. But victims can also become survivors, and as we come to know each character through his/her own distinctive voice and their interactions with one another, we see how, despite pain and guilt, they can reach out to one another, find a new equilibrium, and survive.
I am Malala (Young Reader's Edition) by Malala Yousafzai
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost.
Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.
There's HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.
Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way.
It is impossible to stay sad while reading this book. The sweet, never-fail happy endings alone will boost your mood, but add in the adventurous, unconquerable Leila, and your frown will do a backflip.
Each character narrates only a short portion of the book, their own little adventure that ties into Leila's larger story. In the short amount of time each character gets to narrate, Alsaid develops them fully, not only with backstories, but with hints at what their futures might hold. Readers get to know Leila as she pops up in the other characters' lives, but it isn't until the last part of the book that she tells her own story - which was a creative and brilliant way to develop her character. Leila and the mystery she presented worked well to tie all the stories together.
Leila herself was exciting and witty, constantly getting into trouble. The various and often hilarious ways she helped the other characters reach their happy endings were heartwarming; sometimes a bit cheesy, but sweet all the same. There was quite a bit of romance, too (some of which was also cheesy). Only one relationship seemed a bit sudden and potentially underdeveloped; the other two were believable but cutesy.
Let's Get Lost is a good book to read on the beach or on a road trip, or when you just need a literary pick-me-up. It doesn't deal with very serious matters (for the most part; there are a few heavier parts) and doesn't require as much thought as, say, A Tale of Two Cities. This is a book to read for pure enjoyment and leisure, one that will leave you with a smile on your face.
The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco
A dead girl walks the streets.
She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.
Because the boy has a terrifying secret - one that would just kill to get out.
The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan
In this fast-paced survival story set in Hawaii, electronics fail worldwide, the islands become completely isolated, and a strange starscape fills the sky. Leilani and her father embark on a nightmare odyssey from Oahu to their home on the Big Island. Leilani’s epilepsy holds a clue to the disaster, if only they can survive as the islands revert to earlier ways.
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.
Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.
As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.
Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
A year ago Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction — and taking the life of Dovey's best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.
But recently she's started to believe she's seeing things that can't be real ... including Carly at their favorite cafe. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.
As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah — where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk — she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.
Dovey's running out of time and torn between two paths. Will she trust her childhood friend Baker, who can't see the threatening darkness but promises to never give up on Dovey and Carly? Or will she plot with the sexy stranger, Isaac, who offers all the answers — for a price? Soon Dovey realizes that the danger closing in has little to do with Carly ... and everything to do with Dovey herself.
Mortal Danger by Ann Aguire
Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn’t imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She’s not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he’s impossible to forget.
In one short summer, her entire life changes and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly . . . bad things are happening. It’s a head rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil’s bargains, she isn’t sure who—or what—she can trust. Not even her own mind.
Blind by Rachel DeWoskin
Imagine this: You are fourteen, watching the fireworks at a 4th of July party, when a rocket backfires into the crowd and strikes your eyes, leaving you blind. In that instant, your life is changed forever. How do you face a future in which all your expectations must be different? You will never see the face of your newborn sister, never learn to drive. Will you ever have a job or fall in love? This is Emma’s story. The drama is in her manysmall victories as she returns to high school in her home town and struggles to define herself and make sense of her life, determined not to be dismissed as a PBK – Poor Blind Kid.
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter's senior year of high school, he is forced to examine everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.
Meanwhile, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. When those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.
Normally, I wouldn't pick up a book that made so much of itself just in its blurb. Either it raises my expectations too high or it seems like the book is making too much of itself. Some poorly-blurbed books rise above their adjective-filled summaries, but Where Things Come Back does not.
I do agree that the story had a generous helping of absurdity. Religious zeal, prophetic visions, and weird imaginings of zombies fill the chapters. Cullen also repeatedly talks about himself in the third person (When one does this, he often...) which got old fast. Beside the absurdity, though, Where Things Come Back doesn't really live up to its descriptors.
I've heard a lot of good things about this book, and to be fair, some of them are true. The characters are likable and interesting; and Cullen makes some good points in his rambling. The chain reaction that begins with Benton Sage and spans the length of the book was pretty clever, but Cullen's chapters were duller.
If you've read more than one of my reviews, you've probably caught onto the fact that I dislike most YA romances. Where Things Come Back was happily instalove-free, but the romance still fell flat. (This may contain spoilers) It starts with Cullen's obsession over the girl, Ada, who is incidentally the hottest girl in town. Of course, Cullen gets the girl - but more because she pities him and he idolizes her than because they actually love each other. I hesistate to call it a "love story," actually; there wasn't much love. Alma Ember's love stories were a bit more realistic.
Whaley did a great job of combining the stories of Benton Sage, Cullen Witter, and everyone connected with them. They wove together seamlessly, which is no small feat. The writing of Where Things Come Back was by no means subpar, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped to.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.