Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Hi everyone! Summer went by so quickly for me but I still managed to squeeze in a book before I was swept away by senior year. I’m so excited to share with you The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys.

Cover may not be final
Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother's birth through the lens of his camera. Photography--and fate--introduce him to Ana, whose family's interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War--as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel's photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history's darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence--inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.


Sepety's style of writing is just beautiful. It flows right from the beginning and builds with intensity, with every line feeling deliberate while still progressing naturally overall. And this writing style is what makes this novel distinct from other fiction- rather than having a very structured series of events, this novel ebbs and flows through different circumstances and perspectives, bringing a sense of authenticity to the story.

And although the story isn't dramatized, in each written snapshot there is striking intensity and a sense of finality- of “this is the norm." And this novel also brings with it a powerful feeling of "this was real"- that profound sense in historical fiction that can’t really be created by any other genre. The Fountains of Silence explores life in Spain following the Spanish Civil War through multiple lenses, providing a glimpse into a history often glossed over.

First is Daniel, travelling to Madrid from a wealthy American family. Through him, we see snapshots of 1950s America- the social circles, conformity, and conservatism- and also fascist Spain as an outsider. He tries to understand the complexities of a world and culture he feels somewhat connected to through his Spanish heritage but in reality is still worlds away. And most us of are like Daniel, seeing tragedies, horrors, and injustice secondhand, and being unable to truly understand another’s circumstances when they are so unlike our own, which is what I think makes this novel so compelling.

The world that Daniel is glimpsing is Ana’s reality. Her work in an American hotel in Madrid with the exuberant displays of wealth and power is a sharp juxtaposition to her circumstances at home, yet she can’t help but dream. And through her we see many other characters who complete the story: Julia, Rafa, Fuga, and Puri, who each respond in their own ways to lives overshadowed by fear and silence.

Ruta Sepetys has been referred to as a “cross over” author whose books are read by both young adults and adults, and this could certainly be the case with The Fountains of Silence. The style of writing is more solemn and mature, and the plot is more slow-build than action-packed, but her ability to fill the story with underlying tension, vivid imagery, and meaningful characters makes this a novel everyone would enjoy.

If you like historical fiction, or if you want to try something new like I did, check out The Fountains of Silence when it comes out on October 1st. You can find it on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

-Amy

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Hey all! Today (or rather the day I'm posting this) is my first day back to school, meaning summer has officially ended. Summer seems to have flown by yet again this year, and as I was thinking back on the summer I remembered this incredible book I read last year that I still feel did not get enough praise.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
A "mesmerizing, poetic exploration of family, friendship, love and loss" - The New York Times Book Review. 
Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend Samantha. But it's senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal's not who he thought he was, who is he? This humor-infused, warmly human look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.


The Inexplicable Logic of my Life was Sáenz's highly anticipated next novel after the wildly successful Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. And as much as I loved Ari and Dante, I think I am one of the few who loved this novel even more. Sal and I are at similar points of life right now as I approach the end of high school in these next two years and begin to step out into an unknown territory.

Like many of Sáenz's novels this book is character driven which is exactly the reason I adore them so strongly. His characters are always so well developed and so strong, allowing me to feel as if I know them even if their story is nothing like my own. Unlike his more well known novel, this novel does not focus on a romantic relationship, but rather on the relationships between families and friends. The main friendship in this story between Sal and Samantha reminded me so much of my own best friend as we are also a boy and girl pair and I saw so much of us in them. Which is exactly why I love his novels so much, because of how real, personable and memorable every single part is.

This book is so beautiful, as are the words inside and it has impacted me so strongly that I can remember how it made me feel even a year later. It is a book focused on changes and real people yet is still so enjoyable to read, and I recommend it to just about anyone looking to read a book that will make them think and feel something.

Have a great September!
-Claire

check the book out here!
amazon barnes and noble goodreads

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!