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The Serpent King
The Serpent King
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $10.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It has a great message about making your own path in life no ..., July 9, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Serpent King (Kindle Edition)
Really 3.5 Stars

First Thought After Finishing: So many teenagers could probably use this book. It has a great message about making your own path in life no matter where you come from.

I bought The Serpent King based off of snippets of other reviews that I saw from bloggers I trust. I didn’t really read the summary though, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. This book ended up unfolding almost like a Lifetime drama (yes, I do like Lifetime movies), and it tackled several tough issues head-on but without being “preachy” about it. In the acknowledgements, Jeff Zentner said that he wrote this book for some of the teens he worked with at a summer camp, and after reading it, I can see how this book could be just what some people need to read.

The Serpent King follows three friends—Dill, Lydia, and Travis—who live in a tiny town in Tennessee, not far from Nashville. None of these three friends conform to what everyone in their town expects of them. Dill is the son of a signs preacher who was imprisoned, Lydia runs a fashion blog and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and challenge the status quo, and Travis escapes his life by reading an epic fantasy series and discussing them on message boards. Each character has chapters from his or her own point of view, so we get to know them and their families fairly well. And each one was relatable in his or her way, especially for anyone who has ever felt out of place in high school.

This book brought back a lot of high school memories for me. I went to high school in a small-ish southern town, and my high school was the “country” high school. There was definitely a certain way people were supposed to act and be; if you didn’t fit it, you were ostracized. Zentner portrayed this through his characters, but also offered hope for a better future. He showed the bond between all three friends and why it was so important; it was a friendship I wanted to be part of. He also wasn’t afraid to write about issues—parents who certainly weren’t winning any Parent of the Year awards, wanting to live up to others’ expectations, and dealing with depression. My heart went out to each of these characters as they struggled, but that somehow made their moments of happiness even sweeter.

Most Memorable Aspect: Lydia’s wit and sarcasm. Her comments reminded me of things that I’d say, and I found myself laughing out loud several times. She had a great voice, wasn’t afraid to be herself, and I really enjoyed reading the chapters from her POV.

By turns inspirational and emotional, The Serpent King is a well-crafted story that celebrates the power of friendship. Tough issues that teens face every day are addressed with sensitivity, and anyone who considers themselves an outcast will not feel so alone after reading this book. For teens and librarians especially, this is a book you will want to know about and share.

The Scorpio Races
The Scorpio Races
Offered by Scholastic Trade Publisher
Price: $5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars I realize that posting this review now probably makes me a bad blogger. Not because of the content of the ..., July 9, 2016
This review is from: The Scorpio Races (Kindle Edition)
First Thought After Finishing: But, but, but...I need at least one more chapter!

I realize that posting this review now probably makes me a bad blogger. Not because of the content of the review, but because of the book is based on. A good blogger would be posting a review of The Raven King or, at the very least, a book in the Raven cycle. However, I once heard an author say that part of the beauty of having so many books and your collection was having the book available when you are ready to read it. This was the time that I was ready to read Scorpio Races, and I am so glad that I did.

Scorpio Races is based on the lore of water horses. In the fall, horses emerge from the ocean, stronger and faster than any horses bred on land, but also far more deadly. On the island of Thisby, these horses are raced at the beginning of every November. The prize for winning is wealth and fame, but you run the risk of dying in the process. Sean Kendrick has cheated death four times to be the winner of the Scorpio Races. He has a special way with the water horses, especially the horse that has been his own for years. Puck Connolly never paid much attention to the races, but desperate for money for her family, she adds her name to the list of riders.

Throughout the story, these two virtual strangers are thrown together again and again as the races draw closer. Neither is looking for a friend, but an alliance of sorts begins to develop. Sean is a sort of mystery, and Puck is a sort of contradiction. I loved seeing how the two complimented each other. Neither was afraid to be themselves, and both had a quiet strength and intelligence that showed through their actions.

From childhood, I've loved reading books about horses. I always wanted to take riding lessons, but books were the closest I could get. Scorpio Races reminded me of everything I loved about horse books and made me want to ride again. From the descriptions, I could picture all of the horses in my mind, how magnificent they must be, and the bonds between Sean and Corr and Puck and Dove were palpable through the page. It wasn't hard to see why horses, even water horses, responded to Sean, because the more that I read from his perspective, the more I liked him. Puck also has chapters from her point of view, which was a nice balance, but I still wanted to read more about Sean.

From the sea cliffs to the stables, I found myself wanting to be immersed in this book. Since it is a stand-alone novel, it's a good reminder that I need to get lost in Maggie's latest series!

Most Memorable Aspect: The sense of timelessness this book had. All of Maggie's books that I've read have a spellbinding, trance-like quality to them, where time and reality are suspended and the story is all that matters. It makes for a wonderful escape and reading experience.

Get lost in a dream where horses come from the sea and a simple race can change or end a life. Try to unravel the mystery that is magic as it unfolds between Sean and Puck. Enjoy a different kind of fantasy book that will leave you wanting more from Maggie Stiefvater.

How to Disappear
How to Disappear
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars is driven by the need to survive and take care of loved ones. The characters bring us into their world, July 9, 2016
This review is from: How to Disappear (Kindle Edition)
First Thought After Finishing: Wow. It all makes sense, but wow.

Nicolette Holland—aka Cat—is on the run from the police, determined to make Nicolette disappear. Jack Manx, son of infamous Arthur Manx, is sent to eliminate her. They aren’t used to their new life, but they know that not succeeding could have dire consequences. Every action, reckless or calculated, passionate or desperate, is driven by the need to survive and take care of loved ones. The characters bring us into their world, one most of us will hopefully never live in, and it’s a whirlwind.

There’s a running joke that authors’ Google search history could get them in trouble. That could definitely be the case with How to Disappear. The details of how Cat kept herself hidden were fascinating and made me impressed with her resourcefulness. Jack, on the other hand, is a character that you can’t help but want to put your arms around. He’s trying to move past his past and his family’s reputation, but at times it seems impossible. These are two strong characters who make an impression.

When I started reading How to Disappear, I expected an exciting cat-and-mouse game that spanned the country. I kept turning pages to see what would happen next, wondering the whole time what Jack would do if he found Cat. After a while, however, the book shifted to focus more on the characters’ inner battles. Getting glimpses into Cat and Jack’s minds were intriguing. Even though the book slowed down (and admittedly I missed the fast-paced adventure), I was still curious enough to know how things ended for Cat and Jack. It’s almost impossible to stop reading because there would be so many questions left unanswered. And the answers are definitely necessary.

Most Memorable Aspect: The details in this book made what could have been a glossed-over adventure turn into a vivid survival story. It was almost like a guide about escaping an old life and finding a new identity.

A cross-country and mental journey that races to the end, How to Disappear will keep you guessing and turning pages. Filled with so many vivid details, you will feel like you're right beside Cat and Jack along for the ride.

Red Queen
Red Queen
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars This book has everything a good story needs, July 9, 2016
This review is from: Red Queen (Kindle Edition)
First Thought After Finishing: This book has everything a good story needs.

Some books do not live up to all of the hype about them, but Red Queen certainly does. This book has all of the elements of a fantastic story—an interesting world, political hierarchy and intrigue, underground rebellion, and, of course, romance. If there is an aspect of books that you love, it’s probably found in Red Queen.

Mare Barrow is a Red, living under the rule of Silvers. All of her brothers have been drafted to the same war that injured her father. She lives as a thief, until the night she tries to rob the wrong person. Soon she finds herself in another life, caught up in a Silver world that she never imagined existed. In the Silver world, the people have a variety of abilities, from healing to super-strength to controlling fire. Nobles from the High Houses jockey for favor in the royal court. A Scarlet Guard threatens to overthrow the government. And in the midst of all of this chaos, Mare must come to terms with who and what she is.

As intriguing as the world is, what made this book was the characters. Mare isn’t perfect, but she us strong and dedicated to what she believes in. Cal and Maven are brothers but like opposite sides of the same coin. Both have their own troubles but their own allure, working their way into my heart. Like Mare, I found myself torn between them, wanting to believe the best of both of them but never quite certain. But make no mistake, this isn’t anything like a normal love triangle. There are secrets and scandals, shifting emotions and tenuous connections. I loved these portions of the story as well as the more adventurous portions.

This book was an emotional journey as well as an exciting one. It was hard to know what characters to trust, what everyone was hiding, and who I was hoping would prove to be the best in the end. I know there is much more to the story to come, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters keep developing.

Most Memorable Aspect: This book was constantly full of surprises, which isn’t always common. I loved the twists and suspense that kept me guessing.

Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and Victoria Aveyard did not disappoint. True to her screenwriting background, an engrossing story unfolds on the pages and kept me hooked from the first word to the last. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

A Season for Fireflies
A Season for Fireflies
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Like Shakespeare said, July 9, 2016
Really 3.5 Stars

First Thought After Finishing: Like Shakespeare said, all’s well that ends well--no matter how you get there.

Some books are quick reads but leave you thinking; others you have to take stretch out over several days. A Season for Fireflies is the former. I read the book in one day, mostly in one sitting, but it’s been on my mind for a few days since then.

Penny lives for theater. She acts in plays year-round and hopes to be an actress, and her best friends are there. However, her best acting job is what she dos every day—hiding how bad her mom’s drinking is from everyone. However, when the effects catch up with her, she’s desperate for a change that gets her out of the spotlight and away from questions. She spends a year hanging out with the popular crowd, balancing partying and studying, as long as it keeps her away from home. But when a lighting strike takes a year of her memory, Penny has to decide how she wants to rebuild her life.

Penny’s struggles hit close to home. Opening up and accepting help can be a challenge. She finds it easier to ignore the problems, to push away others before they can push her away. Wes, who wants to be more than her friend, scares her most of all. But when she has to face how she reinvented herself, she realizes that even though parties are fun, she can’t escape from life for forever. For anyone who has a hard time sharing personal information for fear of reactions, Penny’s story is worth reading.

This story was easy to get caught up in. I wanted to know if Penny could rebuild her relationships and if she would get her memory back. Her friends were also fun to read about. Panda especially made me smile and was someone I wanted to know more about—if there was to be a spinoff story, I would choose him to be the main character. Then there was Wes. He’s the kind of first crush that every girl deserves, and he plays an important role in the story. Finally, I loved the idea through the book of creating a life for yourself. Life didn’t have to be all or nothing; sometimes bold choices work out for the best.

Most Memorable Aspect: I liked the firefly imagery throughout the book. It brought back so many childhood memories and made me wish I’d had some of the same picturesque backdrops. I also loved the theater references throughout the story.

A sweet story of self-discovery and making choices for yourself, A Season for Fireflies is a fast read but a touching one. Rebecca Maizel has a unique style that I definitely enjoyed, and I look forward to reading more from her.

The Last Boy and Girl in the World
The Last Boy and Girl in the World
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars but it certainly gave a great backdrop for this story, May 10, 2016
I had the pleasure of hearing Siobhan Vivian talk about this book at a signing. She happened to see a painting of a city that had become a real-life Atlantis, and the painting and thoughts about it inspired the book. Aberdeen wasn’t the city in the painting, but it certainly gave a great backdrop for this story. It was the sort of town I always dreamed about living in—at least, until I remembered I would not function well in a town without Starbucks. Aberdeen is a small, close-knit town. Keeley has lived there her entire life, Morgan has always been her best friend (and even their moms have always been best friends), and everyone knows everyone.

Small town or not, Keeley still can’t get the boy of her dreams to notice her. But all of that changes one day when they end up stacking sandbags next to each other to prevent flooding in the town. Just like the unthinkable happens for Keeley in having Jesse’s attention, the unthinkable happens for the town when the flooding actually does start. Suddenly everyone might be losing the only home they’ve ever known. That’s where Keeley and Jesse’s comedic and daring antics come into play. They dream up wild ideas to make the most of the time that’s left. They throw parties that sound like something I’d want to be at. They joke and make videos and embrace that kind of joie de vivre that I sometimes wish I could have. When reading about golden-boy Jesse, I could almost feel it, feel how good it would be to have someone like that put his arm around me and say something like, “I dare you to have more fun than you’ve ever had before!”

But this book isn’t all parties and the discovery of a first love. At her signing, Siobhan also said something along the lines of how romance doesn’t always have to be between a boyfriend and girlfriend. The fact is that there are more types of relationships in the world—family, mentors, and friendships. Those types of relationships really take center stage in this book. That isn’t to say that there is no romance, but this book captures so much more than that. In life, we need more than one person, and for good reason. Keeley didn’t just have and need Jesse, even though Jesse was the boy she’d loved for forever. She needed her BFF Morgan. She wanted things to be okay for her family. Even Levi, who was the often-annoying overachiever, was still a relationship in Keeley’s life. The book would have been incomplete without any of them and their shared experiences.

I haven’t read Siobhan Vivian’s other books, but if they are anything like this one, or if future books are, it’s safe to say that I’ll be adding them to my to-read list. From characters where I found little pieces of myself to a story that was completely engrossing, The Last Boy and Girl in the World will absorb your mind and tug on your heart.

Most Memorable Aspect: Aside from all the emotions, what struck me about this book was how perfectly human it was. Perceptions about people and even the truth shifted for the characters and for me as the book went on. The book felt like little pieces of lives were unfolding on a page—sometimes exciting, sometimes slower, sometimes emotional, but always real.

Unbreak My Heart
Unbreak My Heart
by Melissa Walker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.82
69 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great summer read, September 6, 2012
This review is from: Unbreak My Heart (Hardcover)
This book had a lot of buzz around it, and the night that I picked it up to read, it seemed like it would be the right mix of poignant and sweet. Unbreak My Heart explores different sides of heartbreak and the pain that any loss can cause, but as the title suggests, it also shows healing.

Clementine Williams' sophomore year was fine...until people found out that she had fallen for her best friend Amanda's boyfriend. Because of that, Clem was shunned by her friends and looking forward to a summer with no plans, until her parents tell her that they will be sailing along the river. Clem is looking forward to escaping into her room with her music, but her family's first stop on the journey changes that. She meets a boy her age, James, in a store, and soon they are running into each other quite frequently. But Clem knows she isn't a good person - after all, her lifelong friends still won't talk to her. Neither her parents nor her little sister Olive can cheer her up. But could James be just the medicine that her heart needs?

Unbreak My Heart is told with a dual narrative, alternating pieces of Clem's sophomore year with the events of the summer on the river. I loved that the story unfolded gradually and that we still learned more about Clem as the book went on. I also enjoyed getting to know her family. Her parents were involved and caring, and her little sister Olive was adorable - just like what I always imagined a little sister would be like. Then there was James. I have to admit that I am a sucker for tortured artists - and with James being an incredible artist who was hiding secrets, I found him incredibly swoon-worthy. Their relationship felt real and was developed over time, and it was by no means issue-free. I appreciated how Clem gradually realized what was really bothering her and started learning how to be okay with the way thing were. And as for Ethan...even though he seemed perfect at first, he is also a great example of how the perfect person isn't always perfect for you.

Even though this book was full of emotion and definitely worth the read, it wasn't as moving as I was expecting. Perhaps it was a case of my expectations being too high, or perhaps it was because I had issues with some of the characters. Amanda disappointed me, and to be honest, I wish that Clem would have stood up for herself better. Even so, the story was sweet, and I enjoyed reading about the summer on the river.

Whether you're looking for something about first love or recovery from first crushes, Unbreak My Heart is a great summer read. Now that I've read this, I will definitely have to read Melissa Walker's Small Town Sinners and any other books that she might write!

by Kathleen Peacock
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.91
73 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed, September 6, 2012
This review is from: Hemlock (Hardcover)
Really 4.5 stars

Sometimes you start reading a book and you know from the first five pages that it's going to be great. Hemlock was one of those books, and I was certainly not disappointed.

Mac lost her best friend Amy to a werewolf attack. Months later, the white werewolf who killed Amy still hasn't been found, and Mac is continually haunted by Amy in her dreams. Then, one day, the werewolf attacks start again, and Trackers - aka werewolf hunters - arrive in Hemlock to search for the killer. However, Mac would rather not have the Trackers in town. They seem to be causing problems, not to mention the fact that Mac's friend Jason is spending more and more time with them. Mac decides to take on the search for Amy's killer herself. But once she starts gathering information, she finds out that she might be in over her head, dealing with secrets she never imagined and situations she might not be able to escape. In a town full of secrets, who can Mac trust?

One of the things I love about YA is how books so easily cross genres. Hemlock blends elements of paranormal and mystery stories, bringing a fresh twist to werewolves. In Hemlock, everyone in the US knows about werewolves - or those that suffer from Lupine Syndrome - and they all hope to avoid werewolf attacks that come with the threat of being changed or killed. Beyond those things, there is still so much to love about Hemlock. One of my favorite things about Mac was her dedication to her friends. She was determined to help all of them, even those who weren't her "best" friends. I also really enjoyed the way Mac's dreams with Amy were incorporated; it provided a great glimpse into Mac's psyche and made their relationship that much more real. Then there was Mac's best guy friend, Kyle. Who could help but fall for him? And even though at first it seems like there's a hint of a love triangle, in reality things are much more complicated.

The story of Hemlock is so engrossing that I forgot everything else while reading. I was swept away by the mystery as well as the excellent writing, and even though I was able to figure out some of the secrets, there were still unexpected surprises. The synopsis definitely doesn't lie when it promises "provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love."

Hemlock is a fabulous debut novel that is not to be missed. Everything about this book left me wanting more, and I cannot wait to read the next installment of the trilogy!

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls)
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls)
by Ally Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.06
231 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A quick, fun read, September 6, 2012
The first Gallagher Girls book surprised me - in a good way. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy brought me back to the world of intrigue, covert operations, and the group of girls that would be great friends.

Cammie and her friends are back for another semester at Gallagher Academy, and true to form there is never a dull moment at school. Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macey quickly stumble across a secret Cammie's mom and Mr. Solomon are hiding. In true spy fashion, a little detective work reveals that Gallagher Academy will be playing host to several students from another school - an all-boys school. And one of these students seems to have an interest in Cammie. After her previous experience with boys, Cammie is determined to keep her distance, but at a boarding school that is easier said than done. As if the addition of boys isn't enough for Cammie and her friends to deal with, there seems to be a much more sinister plot that could undermine the foundation of the Gallagher Academy. Can Cammie and her friends save the day?

It was so much fun to be back in the world of spies with Cammie and her friends. While the first Gallagher Girls book focused on life outside the school (or Cammie's attempt at having one), this book was dedicated to life inside the school. The classes were more intense and the schemes were more daring when there were being carried out under the noses of trained spies. It is no surprise that there are secrets, like Blackthorne, and the addition of the boys made this book even more fun than the last. No review would be complete without mentioning one boy in particular - Zach. It was hard to get a read on him sometimes, but after all, he is a spy. His interactions with Cammie were by turns sweet and maddening, but I definitely hope that we see more of him in the future. I don't want to say much more than this and give anything away because...well...where's the fun in that? Being a spy is all about secrets...

All of the things that I admired in the first book, like the realness of the world and the way the girls came to life, held just as true in this book. Once again I loved the classes and all of the high-tech gadgetry, and even Mr. Solomon is starting to grow on me. Once again this proved to be a quick, fun read and the perfect escape for a summer day.

The beauty of starting a series so late is that I don't have long waits in between every book. I am looking forward to reading Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover!

This Is Not a Test
This Is Not a Test
by Courtney Summers
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.61
78 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new side to the zombie apocalypse, September 6, 2012
This review is from: This Is Not a Test (Paperback)
With as many jokes as there are about the zombie apocalypse, I expected this book to be different. Although there is some zombie action, there is much more depth to the story. This Is Not a Test is a story of how to find meaning in life even when there doesn't seem to be any.

Sloane Price is counting the days until she turns eighteen - or she used to. Since her sister Lily ran away from home, Sloane doesn't see much of a point to anything. What she doesn't know is that the world is coming to an end anyway. Zombies have taken over, and they are eager for blood and converts. Sloane takes refuge in Cortege High School with five other students, and together they try to wait out the zombie attacks behind barricaded doors. As the days pass, the barricades hold, but their own inner walls start to crumble. Unlikely relationships are forged, unexpected visitors arrive, and secrets come to light. Sloane knows how easy it would be to die and leave everything behind. After all, what else does she have to live for?

This Is Not a Test is as dark as you might expect a book about the end of the world to be, eploring reasons to stay alive when you've lost everything and definitely focuses on heavy themes. Rather than the action that I thought this book would have - though it certainly does have some - this book shows the aftermath of the zombie attack, focusing on the characters, and not just Sloane. Even still, my heart broke for her and all that she had been through. It was easy to understand her mindset but also to hope that things would change for her. The other students had their own stories just as Sloane did. I loved the bond between Grace and Trace, and Grace proved over and over how sweet she was. She is someone I would want as a friend. Rhys was also sweet in his own way. In the midst of suspicion, anger, and hurt, the bond formed between him and Sloane was a light in the darkness.

As with any compelling book, there have to be surprises, and this story was no exception. There were definitely things that I was not expecting, from the story itself and from characters like Harrison. Despite that, though, the book did seem to drag at times - after all, there is only so much you can do when you're trapped inside a school. However, I do wonder if there will be a sequel; the story and the ending definitely left me wanting more.

This Is Not a Test turned out to be so much more than what I was expecting. Despite the sorrow and sadness that pervades the novel, there are beautiful moments of hope and life. I will look forward to reading more from Courtney Summers!

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