Monday, January 30, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Hi everyone, I am so excited to be sharing my review of A Great and Terrible Beauty, the first book in a trilogy by Libba Bray.

Gemma Doyle isn’t like other girls. Girls with impeccable manners, who remember their station, who dance with grace, and who will lie back and think of England when it’s required of them.

No, sixteen –year-old Gemma is an island unto herself, sent to the Spence Academy in London after tragedy strikes her family in India. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma finds her reception a chilly one. She’s not completely alone though…she’s been followed by a mysterious young man, sent to warn her to close her mind against the visions.

For it’s at Spence that Gemma’s power to attract the supernatural unfolds; there she becomes entangled with the school’s most powerful girls and discovers her mother’s connection to a shadowy, timeless group called the Order. It’s there that her destiny waits…if only Gemma can believe in it.

When I first began reading this novel, I thought it was going to be historical fiction set in Victorian times. In many ways it is. It is a detailed picture of the strict Victorian moral code. There is the concept of young ladies of status being prepared for marriage. They must learn how to be a proper Victorian wife to their husbands. Anything remotely scandalous is simply not permitted.

However, after the first chapter, one realizes that this book is so much more than just historical fiction. A Great and Terrible Beauty has unspeakable tragedy, mystery, intrigue, secrets and even a little magic. The universal theme of good vs. evil runs throughout this novel. I was unable to put this book down from the very first page. If you are a lover of fantasy set in an historical period, then I strongly recommend this book. You won’t be disappointed!

~Melanie S.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review: Snow Job by Charles Benoit

Hey guys! Back with my first book review of the new year: Snow Job by Charles Benoit!

Snow JobNick has created the perfect list of rules for remaking his life. His loser friends may be graduating from high school and going nowhere fast, but Nick is determined to make a fresh start. All he has to do is stick to his list. 

Enter a dark-eyed Dawn, tough and troubled. Meeting a girl like her is nowhere on Nick's list. Neither is hanging out with Zod, a teen thug who is back on the streets after nick testified against him years ago. And making deliveries for the local drug lord definitely isn't on Nicks list

So why is Nick caught up with these people and their dangerous schemes? No on said that changing his life would be simple, and Nick's willing to take a few knocks - and accept a few risks - in his quest for a new beginning. as scams swirl and the stakes rise higher, will Nick's list help him to be a hero -or turn him into a fall guy?

Charles Benoit is one of my favorite authors of all time. Cold Calls, You, and Fall From Grace were all amazing books, and this one was no different! One of the biggest things that stood out to me in this story was the setting and overall description of the background. This book is set in the late seventies, and it's amazing how well Charles Benoit can transport you there in just under 300 pages!

Another thing that really stood out was how realistic the entire story was. Starting with the characters, they were all written out so well and smoothly. No one was over the top or a simple stereotype, and that made the book a whole lot better! The plot was very realistic as well. The beginning starts out nice and mellow and really mixes well with the setting as a small town where not much happens. You get introduced to characters and live through the life of Nick with everything pretty ok for a while. But somewhere in the middle, things start going faster and spiraling out of control and soon you'll find that you won't be able to put this book down!

Overall, I'd say that this was a very well written book that handled a lot of mature content nicely. If you're a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, or any other book by Charles Benoit, I would definitely recommend you pick up Snow Job the next time you're at the library or bookstore!

Have a great day, guys!

Katie C

Monday, January 23, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: Melt by Selene Castrovilla

Melt will leave you without words, deeply in touch with the characters and wanting to read more! A story of when opposites attract; Dorothy, a sixteen-year-old girl who just moved to Highland Park, meets seventeen-year-old Joey, who is considered a bad boy by his classmates, and they instantly fall in love. Sounds like a typical young romance of bad boy meets good girl; however, Joey has a truly dark, painful secret at home that constantly pulls him into risky behaviors and gives him a tarnished reputation. This mysteriousness intrigues Dorothy, whose kind and gentle personality enables her to see past his reputation and understand his beautiful heart and inner being, as she falls fatally attracted to him.

Selene Castrovilla’s choice to include the quote, “There’s no place like home…” on the cover, sets up readers to expect Dorothy and Joey will find home as a place of refuge, peace, and warmth; however, readers find out fast that home is just the opposite for them. Home is a place of judgement, abuse, and where they feel the least accepted and safe whether there alone or as a couple. The Wizard of Oz connections continue throughout the text with epigraphs before each section to add to Dorothy and Joey’s journey down the metaphorical yellow brick road of adolescence. While Castrovilla does not directly make the connections for the reader, a formalist critic would appreciate this backdrop and students will enjoy finding similarities between the events in both stories.

Castrovilla is a true literary artist whose ability to establish voice goes beyond word choice, character quirks, punctuation and repetition. Dual first person narration of Dorothy and Joey visually juxtapose the characters’ mental state and well-being. Dorothy’s words are orderly, smooth, well punctuated prose that symbolically represent her journey and upbringing from two psychologist parents. Joey’s voice comes in verse, scattered on the page and while his message comes in few words, one's ability to read and understand him can be more difficult; thus symbolic of his internal struggle as well as Dorothy's difficulty with making sense of what he says and thinks.

This novel is a page turner geared towards older teens and young adults due to language and sexuality. Readers will become deeply connected to the characters and the ending will leave you with questions and concerns about what could happen to them next. Will Joey and Dorothy's love and devotion survive? Read this rough romance to find out! Melt leaves you on the edge of your seat so if you enjoy it, be sure to also get your hands on the sequel: Signs of Life.

~Kate R.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: RoseBlood by A. G. Howard

Hello TBF readers! I hope January has been treating you well. We're knee deep in the season for curling up with a good book and I have yet another for you to add to your list. 

28818314Seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera. At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

After seeing the Phantom of the Opera for the first time on Broadway a few months ago, when I read the synopsis of RoseBlood I just knew I had to pick it up. The author did a fantastic job researching the lore and real life ties to Leroux's story.

Having seen the play only once in my lifetime I would never call myself a hardcore fan of the original work but even so I found RoseBlood to be a pleasure to read. Howard wove her own ideas and twists in with the already well known work of the Phantom of the Opera, creating something new for fans, and even those unfamiliar with the work, to enjoy. I found while reading that I rather enjoyed following the main character's antics and obsessions while she tried to figure out the secret behind the opera house boarding school she'd suddenly been shipped away to. As I followed Rune through her journey I ended up collecting almost as many questions as she did, save a few select insights into Thorn's life with the Phantom that kept me feeling like I was privy to the book's number of secrets. It was a wild ride to the end, riddled with blossoming romance, deadly secrets, and a mysterious underworld that few ever see.

If you're a fan of modern day retellings, fantasy, or the Phantom of the Opera, give RoseBlood a try. Until next time, happy reading!


Monday, January 16, 2017

Guest Blogger Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the story of two seventeen-year-old boys who live in the suburbs of Chicago and also happen to have the same name. Although the boys are very different, their paths cross under very unusual circumstances. What starts out as an unlikely friendship ends in a high school musical that defines their friendship and reflects a deeper understanding of their differences.

John Green writes as Will Grayson, the straight teen who has a best friend named Tiny Cooper.

David Levithan writes as will (lowercase to distinguish from the ‘other’ Will) Grayson, a gay teen struggling with many issues – his sexuality, depression, online dating, and friendships.

Published in 2010, Will Grayson, Will Grayson was honored with the Stonewell Book Award and the Odyssey Award. It is significant to note that Will Grayson, Will Grayson was the first book starring gay characters to ever appear on The New York Times children’s bestsellers list.
“When I was little, my dad used to tell me, "Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose." This seemed like a reasonably astute observation to me when I was eight, but it turns out to be incorrect on a few levels. To begin with, you cannot possibly pick your friends, or else I never would have ended up with Tiny Cooper.

Tiny Cooper is not the world's gayest person, and he is not the world's largest person, but I believe he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large. Tiny has been my best friend since fifth grade, except for all last semester, when he was busy discovering the sheer scope of his own gayness.”

Will Grayson
So, how does Will end up picking Tiny’s nose? How do the two teens with the same name end up in the same Chicago porn shop? How does will end up dating Will's best friend, Tiny? Does will come to terms with his sexual identity?

The answers to these questions – and so much more – can be learned by reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

If, in the process of doing so, you happen to fall in love with the character of Tiny Cooper, David Levithan has written a companion book featuring Tiny Cooper called Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story.

Other titles by David Levithan include: Boy Meets Boy, Wide Awake, Every Day, Two Boys Kissing, Another Day, and many more.

Bonus Fun Fact: At age 19, David Levithan worked as an intern for Scholastic on The Baby-sitters Club series. He is still an editorial director for them today. In 2005, he co-edited Friends: Stories about New Friends, Old Friends and Unexpectedly True Friends with Ann Martin.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Review: Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

Hello TBF readers!

I recently read TBF Author Kim Savage’s second novel, BEAUTIFUL BROKEN GIRLS and I am completely blown away. Take a look:

Mira and Francesca Cillo—beautiful, overprotected, odd—seemed untouchable. But Ben touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira sends Ben on a quest to find notes in the seven places where they touched. Note by note, Ben discovers the mystical secret at the heart of Mira and Francesca's world, and that some things are better left untouched.

This mystery contemporary novel will leave you breathless. BEAUTIFUL BROKEN GIRLS is “The Virgin Suicides” meets “Romeo and Juliet”.

The mystery tone throughout the novel is perfectly executed. The novel jumps back and forth between the present and past, showing the point of views of Ben, the main character, and Mira and Francesca Cillo. Each “part” of the novel (broken up into the places Ben touched Mira) is dripping with suspense. Why did the Cillo sisters commit suicide? Will Ben figure out why? Oh my gosh, PLOT TWIST! I read BEAUTIFUL BROKEN GIRLS into the early hours of the morning because dying to know what happened to the Cillo sisters.

While the mystery and suspense of the Cillo sisters’ suicides remains a focal point of the novel, there is a subtle tone of dealing with grief. In the book, Ben and Mira were hiding their love for each other from the rest of the world. They parted on bad terms when Mira was alive. Now that Mira is dead, Ben must face his guilt over not reaching out to Mira during her last months alive and dealing with the aftermath of her suicide. He believes—almost to the point of insanity—that reading the notes Mira left behind, he will heal his broken heart and grief.

I highly recommend BEAUTIFUL BROKEN GIRLS to anyone who is looking for a novel with a little romance, a little suspense, a little mystery, and a littles something extra so secretive, you will have to find out yourself!

BEAUTIFUL BROKEN GIRLS will be out February 21. So mark your calendar and head over to your local bookstore or library to check Kim Savage’s stunning second novel!

That’s all for today! Talk to you guys next time!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Book Review: Eighth Grade Bites by Zac Brewer

Being a vampire would be great, right? Magical powers, the ability to fly and turn into a bat. Or… maybe not. That's what Eighth Grade Bites by Zac Brewer explores.

Vladimir Tod is a half-vampire on his dad's side who, ever since his parents died in a fire, believes he is the last of his kind. Being a vampire does mean some cool powers for him like being able to float and read others' minds, but mostly it’s a lot of trouble. After all, it's difficult to hide your identity when your fangs seem to pop out at inopportune moments and you're already the much picked-on "goth kid" at school.

However things get worse with the mysterious disappearance of Vlad's English teacher and an unusual substitute with an avid interest in supernatural beings. Not to mention some new abilities that he can't explain. Before he knows it, Vlad has a new report to do on vampires of all subjects and a mysterious journal from his dad that hints at some new clues about his past.

Overall, this book was a pretty interesting change from the normal supernatural fiction. Vlad is an interesting main character and his problems- both vampire and junior high felt very realistic. I enjoyed the book's humor and am definitely intrigued by the rest of the series. Overall though, I've got to say my favorite part of Eighth Grade Bites was the world-building. It was fascinating and, at times, hilarious to hear about the different parts of being a vampire and how Vlad coped with them. For example: drinking blood- Vlad's aunt and guardian is a nurse who smuggles blood out of the hospital for him, not to mention that his lunch is basically a peanut-butter and blood sandwich with a blood-filled Hostess cake. And once Vlad gets into the secrets in his dad's journal…

Anyway my recommendation: read the book and definitely go see Zac Brewer at TBF this spring.

Happy reading!
Katie G.