Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Book Review: Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer

Hello everyone and happy summer! I’ve been super busy lately, but (of course) I made time to read some new books. And I can't wait to share with you Not Even Bones, a dark and action-packed novel by Rebecca Schaeffer.

Dexter meets This Savage Song in this dark fantasy about a girl who sells magical body parts on the black market — until she’s betrayed.

Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” But when her mom brings home a live specimen, Nita decides she wants out — dissecting living people is a step too far.

But when she tries to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold on the black market in his place — because Nita herself is a supernatural being. Now Nita is on the other side of the bars, and there is no line she won’t cross to escape and make sure no one can ever capture her again. 

Nita did a good deed, and it cost her everything. Now she’s going to do a lot of bad deeds to get it all back.


I initially picked up this book for its interesting and unusual synopsis, but its compelling plot soon captured me entirely. Not Even Bones is a fast-paced novel full of action and conflict as the protagonist struggles for freedom while reconciling her conscience with her circumstances and needs. And this novel isn’t just about Nita and her misfortunes (or adventures- depends on how you look at it), it delves deeper into morally gray territory with the underlying theme of morals and their meaning and importance to different individuals. This was unexpected for me at least, but Not Even Bones ended up being a novel that I could really reflect upon and dissect (pun intended) with all the parallelism and connections that gave me those ah-ha moments after I was done reading. 

The world portrayed in this novel, as well as Nita's relationship with this environment, is also complex and unique. The genre is magical realism- Nita’s world resembles our own, just with the addition of supernatural beings. And while at first it might seem like she lives in a dark, unfamiliar world, the black markets, trafficking, and cartels are as much a part of our world today as they are of hers- only, unlike in our society, this underworld is very much present and visible in her life. Nita finds herself in situations that stretch and test her abilities and personality but her grit and determination ultimately push her through. In all, this novel shows us the ugliness underlying the world but also a girl who tries to overcome the darkness yet accept her role in it at the same time.
 
Overall, Not Even Bones is an unexpected and engaging novel. There are plot twists within plot twists- ones that like a magician’s sleight of hand diverted my attention while the other snuck up on me. The tables are turned multiple times, and the line between enemy and ally is so fluid that the characters you like, hate, and grudgingly admire would be better represented by a messy Venn diagram than anything else. And the ending- oh the story's only just begun...

As a disclaimer, there are some graphic and possibly disturbing scenes of violence in this novel. But overall, if you like stories with humor, action, charm, morally gray characters, and a touch of madness, Not Even Bones is the book for you!

Have a relaxing rest of your summer!

-Amy

Find Not Even Bones in the Monroe County Library System, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Book Review: Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips

Sometime After MidnightHey everyone, happy summer! Hope everyone is enjoying their time off and reading some good books along the way. A few weekends ago I sat down and read Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips in about two sittings and absolutely adored it! Here's a summary:

In a dingy Los Angeles club late one night, Cameron and Nate meet and find they have much more in common than their love of an obscure indie band. But when Nate learns that Cameron is the heir to a record label, the very one that destroyed his father's life, he runs away as fast as he can. The only evidence of their brief but intense connection is a blurry photo Cameron snaps of Nate's Sharpie-decorated Chuck Taylors as he flees. 
Considering that Cameron is a real life Prince Charming--he's handsome, famous, and rich--it's only fitting that he sets out to find the owner of the Sharpied shoes. Cameron's twin sister, a model and socialite, posts the picture of Nate's shoes on Instagram to her legions of fans with the caption, "Anyone know the gorgeous owner of these shoes? My hottie brother is looking for him." The internet just about breaks with the news of a modern fairy tale and the two become entwined in each other's lives in this sparkling story about the power of music, the demons that haunt us, and the flutterings of first real love.

I am always a HUGE fan of modern retellings of old stories, and so when I read the summary for a queer Cinderella about music, I was instantly hooked. This book is character driven and L. Philips does it perfectly, with well developed, fleshed out, realistic characters that keep you rooting for them. And while this book has several typical YA romance tropes, the author does them so well that they make the book even better. I went in, expecting this to be a coming out novel, as most queer YA books are, and was so pleasantly surprised to see both characters perfectly comfortable in their identities and surrounded by supportive family and friends. But while I loved the slow-burn romance, believable chemistry, and wonderful romantic and platonic relationships between the characters, I also loved that the book touched on some heavier topics as well.

The discussions of mental health, suicide, and the often harsh realities of the music industry in regards to Nate's dad were so important, so well written, and added so much to the novel. Philips does an incredible job of slowly building the information the reader knows about the past, continuing to leave you intrigued, concerned, and invested up until the very end. And even with a nice, rom-com ending to wrap up the story, it isn't perfect, and there is still some uncertainty left, and I really liked that she didn't just wrap it up in a bow and finish the book off. 

And of course, I have to mention, I LOVED all of the music in this novel. The discussions of music, the subplots about touring with bands, the writing of music, all of it was incredible and I loved it. In the end, I loved this book and its perfect balance of wholesomeness and reality, and I would 100% recommend it, especially this summer when you have a little extra time to read it all together.

See you all next month!
-Claire

find the book here!
amazon barnes and noble goodreads

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Introducting Your Next Favorite YA Mystery



Happy, happy, happy summer! I hope that you are all enjoying a nice, relaxing, and not too sweltering summer break! In my opinion, summer break is truly the absolute best time to curl up with a good book and get lost for a couple of hours in another world. If this sounds like a good way to spend your summer days, I have a great suggestion for you! Two Can Keep a Secret, by Karen M. McMannus, is a phenomenal mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat (or beach chair) until the very last page.

                This book is truly one of the best young adult mysteries that I have read in a long time. The plot follows two teens, a decades old mystery, and a murderous homecoming, creating one of the rare situations that you would not want to be on the homecoming court. The story is told from the perspective of Ellery, a quirky twin who is slightly obsessed with murder mysteries and the unsolved disappearance of her aunt Sarah, and Malcom, a bit of an outcast trying to prove that he is not like his brother, one of the primary suspects of a murder five years before. The small town of Echo Ridge is the perfect setting for the ensuing murder mystery that begins when Ellery comes to the small town to live with her grandmother and threatening sign is posted that says that homecoming will be just as dangerous this year as five years ago, when the last murder took place. McMannus skillfully creates a setting that enhances the spooky suspense of the mystery through small town gossip, perfectly creating an Andy Griffith Show gone tragic feeling. One of the best things about Two Can Keep a Secret is McMannus’ uncanny ability to write in the voice of a teenager, with refreshing and realistic characters that you certainly want to be friends with. The secondary characters were just as well written as the main characters, creating a three-dimensional world to get lost in for a couple of hours (in case you were missing school and wanted to return in a book). One of the other main triumphs of this novel is the ability of McMannus to weave together past mysteries seamlessly with the present mystery, throwing in multiple plot twists that manage to keep the reader guessing until the shocking conclusion. I personally was unable to put the book down, spending a morning buried in the pages until I read that brilliant last sentence. Yes, the last sentence of the book is absolutely amazing. No, you will not understand the last sentence if you peek before reading the rest of the book. Yes, you will have to read the entire book to understand what I am referring to. Have I managed to intrigue you? I suggest that you satiate your curiosity and pick up a copy at your nearest bookstore. Still not convinced? What of I told you that there was a health helping of sleuthing, homecoming drama, difficult family relationships, and a dash of romance? There is no reason not to pick up a copy of this thrilling tale and get lost in its pages. And there really is no better way to spend a summer day than hanging out in Echo Ridge, trying to solve a homecoming mystery
Two Can Keep a Secret cover from Amazon's website



                Feel the urge to go and immediately buy this book? I don’t blame you (it really is that good). In fact, here is a copy of the handy link to amazon.com, making it incredibly easy for you to get this book in your hands: https://www.amazon.com/Two-Keep-Secret-Karen-McManus/dp/1524714720/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1TUNSF23D4HNQ&keywords=two+can+keep+a+secret+karen+mcmanus&qid=1562804099&s=gateway&sprefix=Two+Can+%2Caps%2C236&sr=8-1

Have fun in Echo Ridge! Happy summer and happy reading!

-Laura

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday Fun Post: Books I Want to See on Screen

Hey everyone, happy summer! As I'm finishing up my last few finals and heading into summer I am so excited to have the time to check off my list of books to read and movies to watch. I have been loving the recent trend of incredible book adaptions, such as the well loved Love, Simon and To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Since I am so excited for all of these new diverse films coming out, here are a few YA novels I would love to see on screen!

How to Make a Wish1) How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
I read this sweet, emotional, and heartwarming book a summer or two ago and fell in love with it and Blake's writing. This book is the perfect summer romance with deeper moments that would be incredible and beautiful as a movie. With scenes on beaches and lighthouses, as well as a subplot regarding piano and music, this book would translate incredibly to film, and if done right, could have a fantastic soundtrack and stunning cinematography. The main two girls chemistry and love, as well as the friendships and family relationships in this book are real and relatable. The book also discusses being bisexual and biracial, topics that are so very important to see up on screen, especially for younger kids who are desperate to see themselves represented. All in all, I love this book and I know this would be an incredible feel good, summer, and moving film I would rewatch many a time.

2) American Panda by Gloria Chao
American Panda
I read American Panda and reviewed it on here last year for TBF 2018 and absolutely adored it. And after meeting Gloria Chao and hearing her speak about the book I have been stuck on the idea of it as a film. So many teen stories focus on high school, and so this story set in Mei's first year of college would be so unique and interesting on screen. With the success of more diverse films recently I have been hoping for a story like Chao's to be picked up. With the incredible story of Mei's family struggles, of her romance, and of her love for dance, all of this would work so very well as a film, and would probably leave you both crying and joyful by the end. With wonderful characterization, an incredible setting and dance scenes, and just a good, complex and real story, this is a book I would drop everything to go seen an adaption of.

Everything Leads to You
3) Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour           
And last but certainly not least, we come to one of my all time favorite books. Since I first read this novel, and with every reread, I have been aching to see the news LaCour's book would be adapted. This is a book about young love and friendships, as well as a book all about the love of movies themselves, and would be a fantastic film. This book literally has it all, from the very well done and diverse characterization, the wonderful romance between the two main girls, to the scenes of Emi working on the sets for films and of the mystery element. When reading it I could picture the scenes in my head as beautiful shots in a movie and I know that the film would be beautiful to watch, with incredible cinematography, lighting and colors, and a very good soundtrack, as it deserves. After the love Love, Simon received, I think its about time for some queer girls to get to shine as well. In the end, this is a book that is meant to be a film and I will never shut up about it until it happens.


In the mean time, before these incredible books hopefully make it to the big or small screen, check them out below for some good summer reads, and incredible writing.

See you next month,
Claire

How to Make a Wish: amazon    barnes and noble    goodreads

American Panda: amazon    barnes and noble    goodreads

Everything Leads to You: amazon    barnes and noble    goodreads

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Book Review: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Hey everyone! Katie C. here with one another book review! This week, I'll be talking about Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

When Dean raced out the door to catch the school bus, he didn’t realize it would be the last time he’d ever see his mom. After a freak hailstorm sends the bus crashing into a superstore, Dean and a group of students of all ages are left to fend for themselves. 

They soon realize the hailstorm and the crash are the least of their worries. After seeing a series of environmental and chemical disasters ravage the outside world, they realize they’re trapped inside the store. 
Unable to communicate with the ones they love, the group attempts to cobble together a new existence. As they struggle to survive, Dean and the others must decide which risk is greater: leaving… or staying. 

This book is hands down my favorite apocalypse/dystopian story! Monument 14 takes an interesting idea, great characters, high stakes, a thrilling setting, and mashes it all together into one perfect book!

One thing that this book accomplishes better than a lot of other dystopian books I've read is the realism embedded in the conflict. Monument 14 takes place only a few years in the future, instead of hundreds or thousands, and it starts out while the world is still seemingly normal instead of right in the middle of when everything goes wrong. As a reader, this made the book so much more interesting because I could witness, along with the protagonist, Dean, everything go wrong as the story progressed.

In addition to above, another thing that really made this book stand out was the actions and decisions of all the characters stuck inside the superstore. Despite everyone being in the same situation, everyone's motivations and ideas on what to do next were different and sometimes even clashed. There were kids who wanted to take advantage of the situation and do whatever they desired, and kids who wanted to venture out of the super store to escape the town and get help, and kids who were too young to understand anything that was going on, and kids who were much older trying to unite everyone on the same path. These seemingly random people coming together under one extreme situation turned into a lot of tension and problems beyond whats going on outside that made this book impossible to put down!

Overall, I'd recommend Monument 14 to anyone who loves a good dystopian novel, but also to fans of Michael Grant and Suzanne Collins. I will say that this book has parts that get really dark and really graphic, so if you're not a fan of those types of stories, I'd pick up something else. But other than that, Monument 14 is one of the best books I've been introduced to while attending TBF and I highly, highly recommend you give it a read!

Until next time, happy reading! This is Katie C., signing off!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Book Review: Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Hello everyone, for this book review I read Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson. Many of you might know her widely acclaimed novel Speak, and this memoir/book of poems is its companion, recounting stories of her upbringing and past, as well as important topics such as sexual abuse and rape culture.

Shout explores a difficult and possibly uncomfortable topic, but it’s an important one. Stigma still surrounds rape and sexual abuse victims today, and normalizing the discussion of these topics in a serious and respectful manner is a step toward progress and a more open minded society. And this memoir does just that. I admire the author so much for sharing her story, and I appreciate how different and eye-opening this novel is- there is no glorified, rosy depiction of growing up, but a powerful story of struggle, pain, and resilience. While these experiences are not universal, this memoir really imparts that for some people, these tragedies, struggles, and trauma that we often only read or hear about is their reality. And this book is for those people especially- the author writes “for the kids the world doesn’t want to see," creating a story and a sense of solidarity with those who need it the most.

It was also fascinating reading the events of the author's childhood and teenage years- she didn’t grow up too far from where I live, and the 1970s doesn’t seem like that long ago, but society then seems so different, at least in my perspective. It’s pretty interesting since we recently studied the 1970s in U.S. History, and many of the events- the Watergate scandal, the Three Mile Island accident, etc.- are referenced. Experiences from her adulthood are also described, and it really imparts how many years it has been and how far society, education, and attitudes have progressed, but also how so much still needs to be done.

Shout expresses an important message- of solidarity, surviving, and advocating for oneself- that is especially relevant today, and is an emotionally moving and powerful memoir that everyone would benefit from reading. Anderson's first novel, Speak, has reached and helped countless readers throughout the years and I have no doubt that Shout will do the same.


-Amy 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Book Review: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Hi everyone! I hope everyone's school year is starting to wind down a bit! For today I want to review for you a series that I have loved ever since I first picked it up off the shelf.

The Unwanteds (Unwanteds, #1)
When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination. 
It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.
But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artim
é that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle.

From the very start I really enjoyed everything about these books. There are seven books total in the series but we can just focus on the first for now. In the world of Quill creativity is treated as a crime above all else, and our heroes Alex, Lani, Samheed, and Meghan, are a few of many who are sentenced to death from too many creative infractions. Alex was caught drawing pictures in the mud, Samheed was reported for being dramatic and boastful, and Meghan was singing and dancing at the same time. For these things the leaders of Quill felt it was only right to get rid of them for the strength of their people. When the soon to be friends roll into the "death farm" they are greeted by none other than a flying tortoise and a man who tells them they're saved.

It's so brilliant to enter into the magical world of Artimé along with these creativity starved kids. Lisa McMann does a great job transferring us from the stark grey Quill to the dazzling magical world of Artimé and it's flamoyant cheerful leader Mr. Today. Many of us know the love of creativity and the arts. Lisa McMann takes it a step further and introduces that creativity to new magic and a world and characters that feel real and alive. It's so easy to relate to our heroes, as they find themselves in this new environment and find each other, and learn to fight for what they care about.

I'd suggest The Unwanteds to anyone who's a fan of magic, dystopian societies, and adventure.

That's all for now! Happy Reading!

Theresa