The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Book Description:

Published: March 8, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.

Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at times comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past.

Review –

I both read and listened to this book and found the dual experience very interesting.

I loved this book for several reasons :

  1. The friends were all outcasts and didn’t really let it affect them, especially Lydia.
  2. The sarcastic humor, mainly from Lydia.
  3. The small town setting in the South .
  4. The affection the friends felt for one another, either shown or not.
  5. The thread of enduring friendship that runs throughout the book.
  6. The tear-jerking sadness of losing a friend.
  7. The courage of Dill to finally take steps to change his life.
  8. Lydia and Dill having a relationship and then going to college miles from each other and having the courage to do so.

Are you seeming the pervading theme of the storyline: Courage!   Even Travis, who dies too soon, and caused me to use numerous Kleenex, had the courage to get outside his comfort zone with Amelia.

Though this book is classified as Young Adult I think it needs to be read by everyone.

Five stars!

 

 

 

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Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Book Description:

Published: September 27, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Review –

I truly find it hard to relate everything I feel about this book. The conclusion to this epic duology delivered in EVERY way possible. Crooked Kingdom enthralled and delighted, even while some of the content reduced me to tears. Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper, and Wylan will forever be marked as one of my most beloved fictional crew.

 Crooked Kingdom is filled with character bonding, as well as interaction and development within the numerous friendships within the main group.

Even while the crew work seamlessly together, they remain distinct and unique individuals, driven forward by their own goals and personal backstory. The amount of character development in this book is phenomenal. By halfway through the book, I was fully invested in every single story – even for characters we previously did not see much of like Wylan.

Besides the characters bonding more as a unit and also as romantics pairs there is an arresting storyline, filled with cunning tricks and plot twists. Leigh Bardugo absolutely shines during her fight scenes, with the action becoming almost cinematic. The constantly turning wheels of Kaz Brekker’s mind is also equally formidable. We all love a story about an underdog, and watching Kaz scheme his way numerous setbacks had me on the edge of my seat, but the payoff is always so immensely satisfying.

Not all couples end up together-there is a death of a major player- I won’t say who but it was worthy of several Kleenex and I still can’t believe he’s gone.

I wish the author had Kaz pronounce his real feelings for Inej, instead he just holds her hand, without gloves. This may not sound like much to those who have not read Six of Crows, but it’s a major deal for Kaz Brekker!

The catch phrase of this series is NO MOUNERS, NO FUNERALS and we learn more about it in this book. This is what the author has to say about the quote:

“No mourners, no funerals. Another way of saying good luck. But it was something more. A dark wink to the fact that there would be no expensive burials for people like them, no marble markers to remember their names, no wreaths of myrtle and rose.”

Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom

Fantastic book, fantastic series!!!

 

 

 

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman

Book Description:

Published: November 22, 2016

Format: Soft Cover

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Review –

In this five-star read  two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long without fear of disease, aging, or accidents.If for some reason they are killed they can be revived in a few days. There is a  governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), and is independent of the Scythedom so scythes rely on ten commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population.

After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty.

The action, violent at times, unfolds slowly, anchored in complex world building and propelled by political happenings behind the scenes . Scythes’ journal entries, which are mandatory, accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual points of view, revealing both personal struggles and problems within the society.  The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and melancholic, brooding but steeped with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. 

Recommended for young adults 14 and up.

Five stars for story and cover!

 

After the Games (The Field Party #3) by Abby Glines

Book Description:

Published: August 22, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Two years ago, Riley Young fled from Lawton, Alabama. After accusing the oldest Lawton son, Rhett, of rape, everyone called her a liar and she had no option but to leave. Now she’s back, but she’s not at Lawton High finishing up her senior year. She’s at home raising the little girl who no one believed was Rhett’s.

Rhett is off at college living the life he was afraid he’d lose with Riley’s accusation, so Riley agrees to move back to Lawton so she and her parents could take care of her grandmother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. But the town still hasn’t forgotten their hate for her, and she hasn’t forgotten the way they turned on her when she needed them most.

When town golden boy Brady Higgins finds Riley and her daughter, Bryony, stranded on the side of the road in a storm, he pulls over and gives them a ride. Not because he cares about Riley, of course, but because of the kid.

But after the simple car ride, he begins to question everything he thought he knew. Could Brady believe Riley and risk losing everything?

Review –

This is the third book in The Field Party series and my favorite so far.

Riley was run out-of-town, Lawton, Alabama, for accusing Rhett Lawton of rape but now she’s back to help her parents take care of her Grandmother who has Alzheimer’s. She’s not the scared young girl of two years ago. Being pregnant and giving birth has changed her and made her grow up fast. She’s not afraid of the people of Lawton or what they say about her.

Brady Higgins is the golden boy of Lawton, Alabama and the best football player on the team. Besides that, he is smart, polite, caring and has a perfect family. That is until the day he catches his father having sex with his secretary in his office.  Things change for the Higgins family after that. Without Riley in his life he wouldn’t have survived.

They have declared their love for one another but with Brady going  off to college Riley will be left behind. But she has a plan to put her daughter, Bryony,(what kind of name is that) in day care and go to college  and work in Nashville to achieve her dreams. Brady wants her to come to the university and live in family housing with him and when she refuses, saying that would be no life for Bryony or herself, he gets angry.

Finally, with a lot of angst and tears they agree to have a long distance relationship and see each other when they can and eventually marry one day.

This book was full of emotions and had me in tears several times. I LOVED IT.

Five stars!

 

 

Bad Girls with Pretty Faces by Lynn Weingarten

Book Description :

Published: October 31, 2017

Format: Hard Back

From the New York Times bestselling author of Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls comes a stylish thriller about the darkness that lurks inside all of us.

When I looked up, his smile was wide and real. “Ready?” he said.
I faked a smile back. I had gotten so good at faking things.
I thought: You brought this on yourself, Sasha. You will have to pretend forever now.
He squeezed my hand again. He couldn’t begin to imagine what this actually was. He had no idea what I’d done. What any of us had.

When Sasha’s best friend Xavier gets back together with his cheating ex, Ivy, Sasha knows she needs to protect him. So she poses as a guy online to lure Ivy away.

But Sasha’s plan goes sickeningly wrong. And she soon learns to be careful of who you pretend to be because you might be surprised by who you become…

Told in multiple points of view, Bad Girls with Perfect Faces is sexy and twisted with shocks at every turn.

Review –

This book is a dark psychological thriller about high schoolers Sasha, her best friend, Xavier, and his cheating ex-girlfriend, Ivy. While Sasha knows what a “good girl” would do when Ivy lures Xavier back into a relationship, she admits that, “Bad girls know there is no right and wrong. There is just what you’re willing to do. What you need to do. Here is what I did.” What she does is set into play a series of events that will unintentionally lead to a murder and its cover-up. Told from three points of view — those of Sasha, Xavier, and a third character whose identity is revealed only at the end of the book — this is a cautionary tale about a right motive gone terribly wrong. While sexual encounters are not graphically described, characters drink often and to excess, and there’s lots of profanity ( “f–k,” “p—y,” “goddam,” “c–t.”). Even though it’s classified as a young adult book, it’s best suited for mature readers and as a vehicle for a discussion with parents about the life-changing price that can be paid for rash behavior and terrible choices.

It’s a fast read and I was surprised by the who the actual killer was (although, looking back, I shouldn’t have been) and I thought the ending was PERFECT and I love the cover.

 

 

Under the Lights (The Field Party #2) by Abby Glines

Book Description:

Published: August 23, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In the follow-up to Abbi Glines’s #1 New York Times bestseller Until Friday Night—three teens from a small southern town are stuck in a dramatic love triangle.

Willa can’t erase the bad decisions of her past that led her down the path she’s on now. But she can fight for forgiveness from her family. And she can protect herself by refusing to let anyone else get close to her.

High school quarterback and town golden boy Brady used to be the best of friends with Willa—she even had a crush on him when they were kids. But that’s all changed now: her life choices have made her a different person from the girl he used to know.

Gunner used to be friends with Willa and Brady, too. He too is larger than life and a high school football star—not to mention that his family basically owns the town of Lawton. He loves his life, and doesn’t care about anyone except himself. But Willa is the exception—and he understands the girl she’s become in a way no one else can.

As secrets come to light and hearts are broken, these former childhood friends must face the truth about growing up and falling in love…even if it means losing each other forever.
Review –
It had been since November of 2015 when I  finished the first book in this series, Until Friday Night, but I was easily able to pick right up with the story line and I love it when books/authors make it easy for you.
 
It’s been six years since Willa has been to Lawton, Alabama,t o live with her nonna, who is the cook and housekeeper for the wealthy Lawtons, and reconnects with childhood friends.
 
Willa spent her childhood here, inseparable with the second son, Gunner Lawton, and his best friend, Brady Higgens.
Now seniors, the three revive their friendship in what appears to be a love triangle. Gunner’s distant relationship with his unloving parents and Willa’s abandonment by her own mother draws them close, as revealed in first-person chapters that alternate among the three teens. While away, Willa did something she regrets that resulted in a short stint in a correctional center, and  plans to keep her head down and stay out of trouble, but her two former best friends, Brady and Gunner, have missed Willa. Worried about her, both boys try to help Willa, even as both have fallen for her.
She finally tells Gunner her secret and he’s there for her so when the Lawton’s family secret comes out ( it’s a WHOOPER) Willa is there for him. They both realize that they love each other and plan a future together.
It was a sweet story, though very predictable and there was a lot of cursing for a YA book, but I guess that’s normal (?)  What do you think?

 

The Call (The Call #1)by Peadar O’Guilin

Book Description:

Published: August 30, 2016

Format: Free Digital Book/OverDrive

Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?

Review –

I have long been a fan of Karen Marie Moning and her Fever series, which deals with MacKayla (Mac) Lane and her battle against the world of the Fae, so when I ran across this book I knew I had to read it.

I’ve seen it described on YouTube as a horror novel and the video went on and on about how graphic and gruesome it was, but in reality it’s no worse than what young adults see on video games or read in some graphic novels. I found the violence and description of the Grey Land and the monstrous Faeries and their dress (made of human skin) added to the trepidation and edginess of the book.

Vanessa (Nessa) Doherty is a 14-year-old girl who attends Boyle Survival College, one of many in Ireland that serve only to teach its youth how to survive the Call of the Sídhe.

This intense, riveting tale is set in an Ireland that the Sídhe, Irish faeries, have cut off from the rest of the world, plotting to retake their former home through a grim war of attrition that involves kidnapping human teenagers. During the “Call,” teens disappear “for a little over three minutes, but in [the faeries’] world, the Grey Land, an entire day has passed, panic and pain in every second of it.” When the stolen teens reappear, they are usually dead and/or horribly mutated by magic. All Irish children attend special centers where they’re taught martial arts, the Sídhe language, and total ruthlessness. Nessa, already relegated to crutches due to polio (Ireland’s isolation means no imported vaccines—or anything else), seems unlikely to survive her Call, but has dedicated everything to doing so. The author follows several teens, including Nessa, over into the Grey Land, delivering blisteringly fast-paced and graphic descriptions of the tortures the children endure. This is a bleak, gripping story, one where only the most muted of happy endings is possible. 

There is a semi cliffhanger and the sequel, The Invasion, comes out in March of 2108. I can’t wait.

Five stars!!!!!

 

Everything,Everything by Nicola Yoon

Book Description:

Published: September 1, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Review –

The world outside the home of eighteen year-old Madeline Whittier is filled with threats: viruses, allergens, bacteria, deadly airborne particles. These are all things that Madeline’s compromised immune system can’t handle. She has SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency, known as “bubble baby disease.” So Madeline is a princess trapped in a castle — except her castle is a spotless, decontaminated house in Los Angeles with white walls, where she lives with her mother, a physician. She hasn’t left the house for 17 years. In order for people to visit (and they don’t; besides her nurse, Carla, Madeline’s only friends are virtual), they would have to endure a thorough physical and spend an hour in a decontamination airlock.

Then one day new neighbors move in next door and suddenly, there’s a boy to marvel over: a boy who wears all black, practices parkour as if he’s weightless and has a window that looks directly onto Madeline’s.

The boy’s name is Oliver but goes by Olly and he is as smitten as she is. the nurse secretly lets him visit after going through  the necessary decontamination and eventually they swap email addresses and so begins their “relationship”.

Olly home life is bad, to say the least. He father is a violent drunk who lashes out at Olly’s mom and sometimes Olly.

Cutting to the chase – Madeline leaves the safety of her home and she and Olly fly to Hawaii for two days so she can “live” only for her to get sick and be turned home by her home who had found out where they were.

A doctor who saw her in Hawaii sends her a letter stating that all her tests where normal  and that what she had was a viral infection ad effected her heart and that it is her opinion that Madeline does not nor has ever had SCID.

There’s a blow up between Madeline and her Mom and she leaves home and flies to New York to see Olly (his family moved shortly after they returned from Hawaii) and there is a HEA.

All that said – I was severely disappointed and had expected the book to be better.  The book seemed rushed and especially the ending. I would have liked a bit more insight into the “new” relationship between Olly and Madeline now that’s it known she is not sick. Oh well …

 

a Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Book Description:

Published:September 27, 2011

Format: E-Book

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd – whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself – Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

Review –

If you haven’t read this book you need to do it right away. This was my second reading and I must have used half a box of Kleenex and then I watched the movie and finished the rest of the box.

Conor’s mother is dying, only he cannot bring himself to admit it, telling himself that the treatments will make her better.

And not only is his mother dying but he’s being bullied at school, he has issues with his father, who left years ago and has started a new family in America, and his grandmother wants Conor to come live with her but he finds her off-putting and cold.

Then the yew tree outside his window turns into a “monster” who tells him three stories, none of them delivering pat messages or answers. Instead it shows him the complexities and contradictions in life. the monster is wanting Conor to tell his story and FINALLY he does  and it brings the boy some closure, or at least some understanding of how to cope with a world that can be harsh.

Fantastic!!!

Five stars !

King’s Cage (Red Queen #3) by Victoria Aveyard

Book Description:

Published: February 7, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Review –

It’s been almost a year since I read the second book in the Red Queen series so I was afraid I’d have trouble getting back into the story, but it was amazingly simple to pick up the storyline.

The story starts with Mare as Maven’s prisoner, but gets wonderfully complicated as it delves into their twisted relationship. It’s all just SO WELL DONE. Maven’s mother literally molded his mind throughout his life to the point where he’s no longer sure which parts are his own. She even turned his love for Mare into an obsession and erased the love he had for his brother, Cal. And there’s still a small part of Mare that cares about Maven (or is at least empathetic) even though she wants to kill him.

The story never excuses Maven’s actions, by the way.The author is very clear that this is not a relationship that will ever be good (or happen), but  I still LOVE how complicated everything is between them. Stories with black & white characters or shallow villains get old for me really fast because it’s unbelievable. Maven’s character totally worked.

Mare is  totally broken and starts to feel gratitude to Maven for the most basic acts of humanity. Watching her grapple with everything was actually one of my favorite parts. She somehow finds the strength to fight again and is a totally relatable character you WANT to support. All of her thoughts and actions make sense and she has so much growth over the course of the story.

To make a long story short, Mare is finally able to be rescued and a huge battle ensues between the Reds and the Silvers, with both sides having many casualties. “The Lightening Girl” is able to harness her gift and she a Cal, together work for the good. BUT, when push comes to shove and a kingship is offered to Cal, he takes it, knowing it goes against everything Mare believes in. So after barely getting back together, they break up. A bit after that, the book ends, and I CANNOT wait until next year for the fourth book in the series.  Write faster, Victoria Aveyard!!!!!