November 10th, 2013


Book Reports (101-106)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool). 'R' means it's a re-read. Brackets mean it's an ARC (linked to Tattered Cover's book page) or e-galley.

If you'd like to see my recent four-plus- and five-star YA recommendations, visit Robin ReadsnWrites.

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

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[The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes jenlyn_b ****+ I definitely enjoyed this! I really liked the mystery and the revelations throughout the book. There are still mysteries left at the end, and that makes me want to read the next one (I'm trusting there will be more). There's a hint of a love triangle, which isn't always my favorite thing (as you all know), but in this instance, the relationships are just beginning. Cassie is attracted to both Dean and Michael, but all three have baggage, and Cassie is mostly trying to figure out who she is and what that can mean in any relationship (friendship and beyond) -- so it's not so much a love triangle as an attraction triangle. I'm more okay with that, since it's a pretty common phenomenon. This book is a bit darker than some of Barnes' books, but Cassie remains pretty thoughtful and sweet, despite her challenging past and current life. The story: Cassie has been chosen by the FBI to be trained as a 'natural' profiler. With the memory of discovering her mom right after her murder, Cassie accepts and leaves her extended family (who have been caring for her since her mom's death). Cassie meets four other 'naturals' at the training center, all of which have troubling pasts of their own (not that they share them with Cassie). Soon, however, Cassie learns the horrifying truth about her fellow profiler, Dean, which further complicates her confused feelings about him and their peer natural, Michael. As a current case (being worked by their teachers, not by the teens) heats up, Cassie becomes convinced that it somehow ties into her mother's murder...and one of the people living in their house. (YA suspense/mystery, released 11/13, publisher: Miramax)]

Dangerous Girls, by Abigail Haas ****+ This was chilling and fascinating. Collapse ) Anna comes across as a fairly normal teen girl (read: self-centered) who only wants the usual stuff from her life -- friends, family, love, etc. But when she's accused of killing her best friend Elise on a spring break trip to Aruba, her life is turned upside down. She and her boyfriend Tate are both arrested, but Tate (who comes from a very wealthy family) is soon released. Anna finds herself not only stuck in the small Aruban jail but on trial for Elise's murder. As the book goes along, the story is told in flashbacks which coincide with the questions the prosecution is asking Anna or other witnesses on the stand. The courtroom parts are pretty interesting, but even more interesting is the fact that the entire drama unfolds through Anna's lens. The prosecution accuses, and Anna 'recalls' that scene in her life. In the end, things are revealed which I found pretty surprising (and I actually went back and dug through some of the memories to see if I could see the clues). Definitely an intriguing read. The story: Anna, her boyfriend, her best friend Elise, and a few others travel to Aruba for a week of drinking and fun. Elise is determined to pick up a local for her fun, but Anna just wants to be with Tate. However, early into their stay, Elise is found (by the others) murdered. With the body lying in their beach house, it's quickly concluded that it was most likely an inside job -- and Anna and Tate are pegged for the killers. However, Tate is released not long after this, and Anna (who lost her mother to cancer only a few months earlier) is on her own, sitting trial for murder in the first degree. (YA suspense/thriller), released 7/13, publisher: Simon Pulse)

manicpixiedreamgirl, by Tom Leveen ** This didn't really capture my attention. I really enjoyed his first book (Party), which is why I picked this up. But where Party was told through a fast-paced multi-POV, this seemed a little slow and heavy. Plus, Tyler's obsession with Becky was sad to me, and I could tell he wasn't seeing her clearly -- which only hurt both of them. The story: Tyler writes a paper on Becky, the girl he believes himself to be madly in love with...but Becky is not his girlfriend, Sidney is. When the paper comes out as an article in a literary magazine, Tyler must confess to Sidney that he wrote about another girl. And he must come to grips with his view of Becky compared to the truth of Becky. (YA contemporary, released 4/13, publisher: Random House BFYR)

Until It Hurts to Stop, by Jennifer R. Hubbard writerjenn ***+ This is a really well done look at bullying and its effects -- so well done that I couldn't read it all. I ended up skimming because of the emotions and memories it pulled to the surface. :) It's not a fluffy book at all but instead delves into how bullying can change the 'victim's' self-understanding. For me, it really explained it thoroughly, and I hurt for Maggie -- while at the same time, I wanted to shake her and tell her to move on and just live. It certainly makes me hyper-aware of what my own daughter could experience, and I will be watching her carefully to see if she begins to exhibit any of these characteristics. (I was bullied in grade school, and I think I got lucky. It was before that super painful tween stage, and because of that, my self-concept developed after the bullying -- which means that I found my identity as a young woman who could handle my peers' comments and derision [which were rare, by that point].) The story: Maggie is bullied in junior high, and now that she's in high school, the girl who lead the bullying has returned to their school. Maggie is terrified that the bullying will begin again, and she throws herself into one of the few activities which brings her peace -- hiking with her best friend Nick. However, her feelings for Nick are beginning to change into more than friendship, and Maggie doesn't know how to handle that -- especially when Nick tries to show her that he might feel the same. When she responds poorly, he moves on to a mutual friend...and Maggie finds herself fighting to discover her place in the world and fighting to be strong somehow. (YA contemporary, released 9/13, publisher: Viking)

Two Lies and a Spy, by Kat Carlton ** I couldn't get into this. The jacket flap still intrigues me, but for me, the story didn't engage like I thought it would. I may try it again sometime, but for now, it's a no go. The story: Kari and her brother are the children of spies. When Kari receives the message that they need to run, she gets her brother and they go to the waiting spot...but her parents don't appear. Instead, others attempt to capture Kari. Kari turns to her friends to help her escape and find her parents -- but then secrets start coming out, and Kari discovers things about her own family that change everything. (YA thriller, released 9/13, publisher: Simon & Schuster)

Noah, by Ben Ryder ****- I enjoyed this, but I thought the ending was unrealistic -- which kind of ruined the rest of the book for me. The ending had a couple of issues for me: 1) Callum solved his work/personal problems far too easily; and 2) I don't think the 'solution' Callum agreed to is one which works very often in real life. The set-up of the story was also a little challenging (back and forth between one day and the past four months). So overall, it was a bit 'meh' for me. The story: Callum spent four months in Toronto working on a job (designing software programs to run large stadium systems). When he meets Noah in the gym, the attraction is immediate -- but Noah is a closeted hockey player. Callum decides he doesn't care and splits his time between Noah and his work. One of this colleagues, Amy, has a crush on Noah, though, and she's used to getting her way. She also uses Callum's easy-going nature to pressure him into doing aspects of the job which aren't his to direct (but which he has the skill to do) -- and soon, there are issues with one of the other managers. Callum has to figure out how to save his job and his relationship at the same time. (Adult m/m romance, GLBT, released 2013, publisher: Dreamspinner Press)

Currently Reading: ...well, it's getting harder to put off the books I bought. I may have to give in ;)