Friday, December 19, 2014

Quick Pick: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

What's a Quick Pick? A book I just finished reading, really liked, but am too lazy/busy to write a full scale review on. Enjoy!

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really, really enjoyed To All the Boys I've Loved Before. It was lighthearted and sweet, and very deftly written. Han gives us great story about a middle sister finally getting the chance to become herself. The romantic relationships in the book are very realistic, warts and all. I think that anyone who dated in high school will easily relate, especially if you were a late bloomer! A much needed dose of realistic high school life to brighten up my normally gloomy reading tastes. It looks like this is the first in a series... I will for sure read the next one.

-Kelley (Your) Teen Services Librarian

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lucky 7: My Top Teen Books of 2014

Human nature loves list-making, and this time of year is the list-iest. With the new year approaching, I too like to look back on my year-in-reading and shine a special light on those books that were especially awesome. Below are my top 7 works of teen fiction published in 2014, appearing in alphabetical order by author. Note that many of these titles appear on other, more reputable year-end best lists, as if you needed any further proof of my good taste. Here's hoping your 2014 was just as full of fabulous fiction. -Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian

1. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. 

My review: Many have told me that Laurie Halse Anderson is the master of YA fiction, and this book left me in complete agreement. I am only ashamed to admit that this was my first LHA book--may there be many more.

The Impossible Knife of Memory is a beautiful, sad, and tender novel. It looks closely at an issue that many teens must grapple with (a veteran parent with PTSD), but that so rarely appears in contemporary fiction. Hayley is so full of palpable fear, which is difficult to experience, because you feel like she's a friend you can’t do anything to help, and she probably wouldn't take your help, anyway. The armor she uses to hide her stress and insecurities is an amazing suit of snark, providing moments of necessary (and LOL) levity. (When taking a math test she's not at all prepared for: "All of my answers were drawings of armored unicorns".) The realistic romance between Haley and Finn also allows some relief and just the right amount of hope. 

File under: Realistic Fiction, Awesomeness

2. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

My review: Brilliant, slim, harrowing, heartbreaking. E. Lockhart writes YA fiction that is a cut above the most. Even though I knew fairly early on what was "happening" here, the pleasure (mixed with a fair amount of wincing) is in the complex unfolding. This book has been checked out of my library since it hit the shelves in May, and there are many good reasons why. I finished it in September, and it's still haunting me.

File under: Realistic Fiction, Mystery, Tragedy

3. Cress by Marissa Meyer

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

My review: If this series continues to get any better my brain might explode. Seriously. Cinder was really good, Scarlet was amazing, and then Cress came along and swept me off my feet. Oh, the romance! The adventure! All mixed together with spaceships and moonscapes. And for those of you who love yourself an evil queen, there is none better than Levana. She eats other evil queens for breakfast.

Cress wins the extra special distinction of being the one book I read this year that I literally could not put down. This book kept me up at night and had me waking up early in the morning to finish it. A sure sign of quality.

Read first: Cinder, Scarlet

File under: Fairytale Re-telling, Science Fiction, Series Addiction

4. Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he's sure of it.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

My review: This book had me hooked by the end of page 1, and I held on tight all the way through; mostly because I was so terrified, but also because I truly cared about the fully realistic main characters.

Welcome to Panic. If you think the Hunger Games are a horrible post-apocalyptic nightmare from a future far away, this book will make you stop and think about the dangerous risks and thrills that contemporary, everyday teens go looking for (especially when they're bored or desperate). Panic is another terrifying, dangerous game, put on for the amusement of the spectators, and the potential profit of the contestants. And just so you know: people have died playing Panic.

Again, I loved how realistic the setting and characters were. Lauren Oliver skillfully brings both Heather and Dodge's complex personalities and back-stories to full life. Her nuanced, damaged characters make it so much harder to sit through the stages of Panic, because you know that both of them have so much more at stake than thrills, money or pride. Oliver also throws in a few serious communication flaws and adolescent insecurities, making everyone in the game extra untrustworthy.

If you're looking for a breathtaking, exhilarating read about teens who could easily be your classmates, this one is for you. Also, save the tigers (spoilers!).

File under: Dueling Narrators, Realistic Fiction, Suspense

5. The Living by Matt de la Peña

Disclaimer: I just realized that this book was NOT published in 2014, but this list would be lacking without it, so it stays.

Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he'll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.

But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy's only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.

The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it's a fight to survive for those left living.

My review: I am not a disaster girl. I don't like watching disaster movies, and I don't like reading disaster books. And did I mention I HATE diseases? Call me a little too sensitive to human suffering. BUT… I really wanted to read something by Matt de la Peña, Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival alum and all around amazing person. So here we are.

I ended up really enjoying this book, and it's one I've recommended many times ever since I finished it. I appreciated how unflinching and raw the disasters and aftermath were depicted.

There is so much more to this book than horror and thrills (which are abundant, believe me). Amid all the bodies (and sharks!), you'll find opportunity to ponder socio-economic inequality and race relations. If you're into government/big cooperation conspiracy theories, there's something here for you as well. Lastly, there are some natural, unforced romantic tensions that I think older teen boys will easily relate to. I think all of these elements are part of what makes the book so good, but they don’t slow down the action at all (in case you were worried about that).

Shy is faced with some very tough choices, and it is edifying to watch him weigh his options, at times with only a few seconds to spare. I think this is a great book that prompts teens to ask themselves, "What would I do in this situation?" You'll be asking yourself that question many times along the way of this heart-pounding ride.

File under: Disasters (Natural and Otherwise), Suspense, Survival

6. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend, Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

My review: Austin Szreba has a healthy preoccupation with the intersection of histories. He believes that the roads of coincidence cross back and forth across time, right in front of us. As a self-made historian, he writes these observations down. Grasshopper Jungle is Austin's recording of the end of the world. While the world is ending, our narrator is also authentically struggling to separate hormones from love and friendship, and human stupidity from beauty. It happens like this...

A gang of total oafs beat the crap out of Austin and his best friend, Robby, in the nowhere town of Ealing, Iowa, in an alleyway affectionately referred to as the "Grasshopper Jungle". Later that night, the same gang of total oafs breaks into the office of Austin's boss, an office that Austin and Robby have also just broken into. Inside they have discovered the most messed up treasure trove of Cold War era stuffs ever seen. While Austin and Robby are smart enough to stand in fear and awe of the glowing blue orb of "Contained MI Plague Strain 412E", the total oafs decide it would be fun to take it for a stroll...

It was not a good idea. You know what I mean.

The joy of the rest of this book is in letting Austin tie all the ends together while hell breaks loose in Ealing. In his own meandering, often gross, and truly funny way, Austin discovers what MI Plague Strain 412E is, what it does (bad stuff), and where it came from (totally bizarre). While he's figuring this all out, he has the unfortunate fate of being a teenage boy made horny by nearly everything, which is inconvenient when the world is ending. Incessant male teenage arousal can also be inconvenient when you're trying to figure out your feelings for your girlfriend and possibly your best friend, too. Female characters, like Shann, seem a big thinly drawn, but that may be appropriate considering the narrator, who happens to be preoccupied by unstoppable, giant mantises bent on devouring the entire human race. And other stuff.

This book is anticlimactic (in a good way!), hilarious, and somber all at once. It is certainly the most unique end-of-the-world fiction I have read in maybe ever.

File under: Gross, Hilarious, Science Fiction

7. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

My review: Many fellow Raven Boys fans were down on this book. Yes, it’s a "bridge book", and it's slimmer than the previous two volumes, but I don't at all believe that Stiefvater is slopping out mere filler before the final installment in this quartet. This book is oh so careful and delicate. There are rich developments here, especially in the relationships between characters; a new bad guy is introduced, along with his equally deplorable wife; and the author's fantastical creativity is on full display. Also, there is a character named Jesse Dittley who is THE BEST.

If you haven't read The Raven Boys and its sequel, The Dream Thieves, never fear! You have three amazing books to devour before book #4 comes out sometime in 2015.

This is probably my favorite young adult series of the past few years.

Read first: The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves

File under: Fantasy, Series Addiction, Supernatural

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Things That Make You Go "Ewww!"

If you asked me what genres I prefer to read I would never think to include Horror. But as I was putting together my annual scary book display in the Teen Scene for ye ol' Halloween, it occurred to me that, in fact, I have read quite a few books recently that have kept me up at night and/or made me want to puke. And isn't that what horror is all about?

So, consider this a guide for "Readers Who Think They Don't Like Horror But Secretly Do". OWWL friends, click on the title to find a copy at a library near you.

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

If you're one of those people who still thinks vampires are sexy, you will be cured by this book, which is straight-up gross. From a very drawn-out scene of melting flesh to a disturbing ritual that involves elbows, you will not be able to hold back your exclamations of disgust... nor your lunch, for that matter.

Imagine a world where human beings are so rare that they're a delicacy. Vampires make up 99.9% of the population and they are tripping over themselves for a piece of man flesh. Plus, they slobber. This is Gene's world, and Gene is a hardcore survivor. His entire existence consists of rituals to make himself undetectable, and he's very good at it. Can you imagine how stressful that is? Well, it's about to get worse. 

Our hero is selected by lottery to participate in the yearly "hunt", where a few very lucky vamps get to chase down humans for sport. If you think the Hunger Games are messed up, wait until you see this. Can Gene keep the vampires fooled when he is expected to hunt down and eat fellow humans?

I really enjoyed the premise of this book and I would compare reading it watching a car crash in slow motion that you just can't seem to look away from... for hundreds of pages. This is probably one of the creepiest and grossest books I've read. (Read my original review on Goodreads.)

Again, if you think vampires are cool or alluring, this book will not only disabuse you, it will mock you (okay, okay: there is one pretty hot vampire in this book, but he's supposed to be an exception).  

Tana wakes up in a bathtub after a night of hard partying. If you think that's bad, you should see everyone else from the party. They've been drained of blood, and we feel the same shock and horror that Tana feels as she takes in the scene. Now, what's that noise coming from the bedroom, and who's that guy in a garbage bag?

Like Gene in The Hunt, Tana lives in a world where vampires are a norm (so it was really stupid of someone at that party to leave a window open at night). Vampires can drain a human, but they can also infect a human, which turns them "cold". When you turn cold, you have two options: try to beat out the sickness that follows in total isolation, or give up and head to Coldtown for your first sip of O negative. Through a series of circumstances, Coldtown is where Tana is heading, but not for the same reasons that everyone else is.

I've talked to people that didn't like this book but I truly enjoyed it. Tana is a really strong character and I admired her determination, convictions, and street smarts. There's an underlying critique of viral media and those who are lured in by it.  And there are plenty of of sickening, blood drenched moments. One of my favorite elements may be the ending, which is satisfyingly atypical for the genre. You'll have to read it to find out. 

The Diviners by Libba Bray

This is one of my favorite YA titles of the past few years and I am eagerly awaiting its sequel (release date TBD). The Diviners kept me up late into the night as it flowed back and forth between its young characters, all of whom find themselves falling under the shadow of an impending doom in 1920's New York City. The writing is rich and detailed, and though it follows several characters throughout, all of their storylines are equally strong and compelling.

Why is it scary? Because it features a dead serial killer still killing people! In gruesome ways! This ghost is THE WORST. The Diviner's also features a haunted house you do not want to wander into, a pretty nasty cult, old ladies who cut cats open, teenagers with emerging occult powers, and one heck of a cliffhanger. That the novel is lavishly set in romantic Jazz Age New York is just an added bonus.

I use the phrase "page turner" very rarely, but this is one book that has truly earned it. I had goosebumps throughout. (Read my original review on Goodreads.)

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Speaking of dead serial killers: The Name of the Star features us a copycat killer obsessed with Jack the Ripper. Someone in modern-day London is replicating the Ripper's notorious crimes down to the last detail, so it's a perfect time for American Rory Deveaux to be dropped off at a new boarding school in the heart of London. Just like the real Ripper, this killer is a master at eluding the police. When Rory claims to have seen the prime suspect, is it a break in the case or is she just going crazy? 

This book is probably the least scary/ewww of my choices, but it's still a thrilling, fast-paced read with plenty of haunting twists and a few harrowing escapes. The last quarter of the book takes off in a completely unexpected direction, setting us up for the sequel, The Madness Underneath

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Okay, so this book isn't horror per se, but it is horrifying and extremely disgusting. It's also one of the funniest books I've ever read. When best friends Austin and Robbie stumble into some very weird stuff in Austin's boss's office, they decide it's best to back away slowly and leave it alone. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for a group of meat-heads practicing their breaking-and-entering skills. Think a single action can't change the world? Think again. Long story short: the world is about to end and it is not going to be pretty. 

Yes, this book features a swarm of giant mantises that are as fast and deadly as the Terminator, but it also has a heart beneath all the snark and goo. Plus, the pages are yellow! (Read my original review on Goodreads.)

That's all I've got. What are some of your most terrifying reads? -Kelley (Your) Teen Services Librarian

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Re-blog Alert: TBF Teen Reads

I'm re-blogging today, calling your attention to a Wood Library/Canandaigua Academy teen who is blogging for the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival. This review has all my favorite elements: a teen I know and a book I love. Take it away, Victoria!

TBF Teens Read: Book Review: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King...: Hi, everyone! I got to read Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King. Here’s the summary, if you haven’t had a chance to see or read this awesome book... read more

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Report: Wildwood Dancing

Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood, #1)Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't know when this happened, but I've suddenly found myself addicted to fairy tale retells. Wildwood Dancing was recommended to me by one of my library teens, an honorary fairy tale princess who considers this one of her 11 Most Overlooked Books. When I read her description, I knew I had to read this, since The Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my favorite fairy tales from childhood.

For me, a perfect fairy tale retelling makes you work to identify the original tale, and it also weaves in elements of other tales and traditions. Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles are a shining example of this, and Wildwood Dancing also delivers (in a much more traditional way). Instead of 12 sisters imprisoned in their castle (sometimes only distinguishable by the color of their gowns), Marillier gives us 5 distinct sisters who begin the tale with relative independence that is gradually and painfully stripped away from them by an overbearing male cousin with some serious insecurity/youngest son issues. The puzzle of how the sisters are allowed to cross over to the Other Kingdom every full moon is one that takes almost the entire book to solve. In between, there are adolescent struggles on both sides of the boundary: balancing family loyalty and duty with personal desires, the highs and lows of true love, a young woman's fight for independence, and a bevy of trust issues. At times, the two eldest sisters are painfully stubborn and blind, but, hey, THEY'RE TEENAGERS. It all works.

I loved the setting of rural Transylvania, a place riddled with vampire stereotypes that the author cleverly avoids and replaces with the vague and mysterious "Night People". That she visited and did research here really shows in the details and the overall mood (love: glossary and pronunciation guides in the back). The woods of both our world and the Other Kingdom are haunting and dark, but we learn time and again that respect of the wood and its ancient culture will keep you (relatively) out of peril.

The romance in the book is sweet and painful; sigh-worthy and as realistic as is appropriate within context. I'm glad I discovered this author (thanks Paige!), and can't wait to read more from her.

-Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


I love reading books, suggesting books, talking about books, having books suggested to me- you name it. But for some reason, some of my favorite books have gotten lost along the way. My fellow readers seem to have heard little of these books (or not at all!) and/or are not interested in reading them. Well, NO MORE! These books deserve, nay, DEMAND to be read, and are worthy of your time. Maybe these books aren't truly overlooked. Maybe they are. But they definitely deserve your notice! Here they are- 

(Hint: click on the title of the book to find your copy in the OWWL catalog)

1. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Mariller

Wildwood Dancing is a wonderful, beautifully descriptive retelling of the Brother Grimm's The Twelve Dancing Princesses. This is also possibly one of my favorite fairytale retellings (And I read a lot of them!). This story fallows the second eldest of five sisters Jena who spends her time exploring the Transylvanian woods with her constant companion: the unusual frog Gorgu. Every full moon, the sisters alone travel to the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom to dance the night away with the fey creatures of the realm. But trouble arises when their father falls ill and their cousin takes over the estate. Meanwhile her sister falls in love with a dangerous creature from the Other Kingdom- this forbidden union Jena must stop. Soon Jena is tested in ways she never thought imaginable. Tests of trust, strength, and true love. At stake is everything she cherishes: her family, her home, and the Other Kingdom she has come to love. Find out what happens…. By reading it!

2. Airhead by Meg Cabot

Any book by Meg Cabot is overshadowed by the ever popular Princess Dairies series. I personally loved this trilogy just as much as the expansive saga that is Princess Dairies. This series is a little more dark and mysterious, but if you love the witty, snarky and a little bit awkward heroines Meg Cabot writes about, you are sure to love Airhead, no problem. This book definitely is underrated and shows Cabot's versatility as a writer. Plus Airhead just has a great story! When tomboy Em Watts has bizarre accident she wakes up no longer herself. Literally. Em Watts finds herself in the body of the teen supermodel, and party girl Nikki Howard. Problem is, everyone thinks Em is dead and Nikki is alive. Read the amusing, and often time humorous experience of Em coping, navigating this foreign life, and finding out what really happened that life changing  day. No doubt worth your time.

3. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

I cannot stop raving about this book. This book is pretty much equal parts Lost and Miss Congeniality. This book is a splendid satirical take on the world of pop and consumer culture. It's just so darn funny! And don't get me started on the hilarious footnotes! When an airplane of fifty pageant constants crashes on a deserted island, things gets real. As the teens try to survive, or continue to practice for the pageant they still intend to win once they're saved, there is adventure, mystery, and a tad of romance. There are also key messages here about survival, friendship, beauty, acceptance, independence, and what it means to be a woman. Hilarious and empowering, this book is defiantly worth a read!

4. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

I really enjoyed this book. It is multi-layered and really well written. The story is about the suicidal Andi's trip to Paris over winter break. She's not likable at first, but that's sort of the point. Stick with it! When she discovers a diary from a girl from over two centuries earlier, Andi feels connected to the girls words and is moved to the point obsession. As she reads the diary, Andi goes on a journey of discovery about her future and about France's past. There is history, fantasy and some romance which makes for an all-around good read. I don't want to give too much away because there is mystery in this novel, but it defiantly deserves to be checked out!

I can't really say this book is truly overlooked because it was made into a TV movie (which did not do it justice, of course!), but still not many people seem to have heard of it! If you like the glamour of Lauren Conrad's L.A. Candy and you like Meg Cabot's different perspective and writing style, with no doubt you will love True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet. A la Lindsey Lohan, this teen star is fresh out of rehab and is about to take a really big step. And it's not back into the spotlight like she believes! Meghan Carter is sent to rural Indiana undercover to recover. This means a serious lifestyle adjustment for this teen star. Her plan is to write all her experiences down in the diary (that is the book we’re reading) and then publish it as a tell-it-all book to make the perfect comeback. But she didn't see coming how her life would change and she would start to enjoy a "normal" life out of the spotlight.

6. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

I love this book and its series! Yelena, the main character, just gets better and stronger as the book goes on. She is determined, stubborn and I love her. The book opens with Yelena in prison about to be executed for murder. But Yelena is offered a way out. She is offered fine meals, rooms in the palace- but to have this she must be a food taster for the Commander of Ixia, testing his food for poison from assassins. As Yelena tries to escape her new situation, calamities continue to rise. There is the threat of rebels seizing Ixia, the constant danger upon Yelena's life, and Yelena also develops magical powers she can’t control. Now Yelena is faced with life altering decisions and her future is as unclear. The world Snyder created is so lush in this series, so much so, if you didn't read it you'd be missing out. There are so many high points to this novel: friendship, romance, assassins, fire festivals, and a kick-a** heroine! You have to read it!

7. Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson

I love Disney with a fierce passion so naturally I was drawn to this book. It defiantly is geared towards a middle-school audience, but don't let that deter you! I'm in high school and I am still enjoying this series! If you love Disney and/or its theme parks, you're bound to enjoy it. This book is a fantastic representation of the Disney World with a darker side. Five teens are each given the opportunity of a life time to become a DHI, or Disney Host Interactive, a hologram guide for guests in the parks. But once they fall asleep after the becoming DHIs, they wake up in their hologram bodies in Disney World after the park closed. The five teens find out that they have been chosen for a mission to save the park from the Overtakers, a group of once-harmless Park characters ranging from the dolls on "It's a Small World After All" to Maleficent, who have taken on  an evil power and are intent on spreading their it outside of the borders of Disney World. This book is fantastical at the same time it's suspenseful and it masterly blends science with the magic of Disney. Get reading!

8. Austenland by Shannon Hale

This is for any girl that has ever fantasized about Mr. Darcy. For Jane Hayes, border–line spinster, ONLY Mr. Darcy will do. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her an all expensive paid trip to a English resort that caters to Austen-Addicts such as Jane. Donning an empire-waist gown, Jane struggles to master Regency-era etiquette while flirting with the gardeners and the gentlemen… or maybe the actors who are playing them. It's quite a game, Jane knows, and as her fourteen day vacation draws to a close, the more Jane wonders: is she able to kick her Austen obsession for good? Or could her dreams of finding her own Mr. Darcy become a reality? It's a super light read (only 197 pages) and is a perfect romance. This book may not be truly overlooked (it just was made into an independent movie. Of course the book is wayyyyyy better!). But, Austenland is so short and fantastic what excuse do you have NOT to read it?

9. Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

This Dorian Gray-ish, gothic paranormal romance is quite different from anything you find on the Dystopian laden shelves that fill the Young Adult section. That is one of the reasons I believe it has been wrongly overlooked. Different is good! Refreshing even! I devoured this book in a matter of hours. Needless to say, I really enjoyed it. In Darker Still, Natalie Stewart future looks grim due to the fact she was rendered mute after witnessing her mother's death at a young age. When working in the acquisitions department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art she comes across a supposedly haunted portrait of the missing Lord Denbury. Mystery, romance, and intrigue ensue after Natalie falls into the painting. This book is a definite page turner that appeals to the reader's sense of drama and controversy. It may even inspire you to read the Gothic classics it was inspired by!

10. Fairest of All by Serena Valentino

This is possibly the most overlooked book of all. NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF IT. WHY????????? As mentioned before, I'm a Disney-phile. Fairest of All tackles the unknown back story of the Evil Queen from Snow White. This is literally the ultimate fan fiction. THE COVER'S SO GOOD. IT WAS SO GOOD! This book is one of the few books I have ever read in one sitting. I LITERALLY COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. Valentino perfectly portrayed the characters from Disney's adaptation of Snow White and wrote a wicked good story. If you love fairytales, Disney, and/or a good old-fashioned misunderstood villain, this is for you. If my writing in all caps has not swayed you to run out and read this book yet--READ IT.

11. Kill Me Softly by Laura Cross

I know, I know. Another story about fairytales. Sensing a theme yet? But this one is more edgy. I read this on a recommendation and wasn't disappointed. This isn't your average fairytale retelling. It’s based on the original fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, so it is darker. Nearly-sixteen Mirabelle decides to take her fate into her own hands by running away to the town of Beau Rivage--and gets more than she bargained for. In the town of Beau Rivage, people are cursed with a fairytale. They have to live with knowing their fate before it happens. Such as, but not limited to, coughing up jewels, falling into an enchanted sleep, biting a poisoned apple... you name it. It’s original and frankly addicting. If you love fairytale retellings like me, or are just looking for something original, this is the book for you.

If you have read these books or will, please let me know!!!! Maybe I'm just talking into the void, but I would love to discuss them! Leave a comment below (If you can. How does one internet?)!

Happy Reading!


Book Report: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

 The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

To be perfectly honest, this book was one I got only after I couldn't get one that I actually wanted.  I had low expectations before and after reading the synopsis and fully expected it to be a mediocre read, one I would forget about soon after I had finished.  It pleases me to say, however, that my low expectations were easily met and surpassed as this book quickly became one of my all time favorites.

The book is narrated by Ava Lavender, a girl born in 1944 with wings like a bird.  Aside from the wings, Ava is a completely normal girl.  Ava starts the book by telling of her grandmother's story, starting when she was a little girl and finishing when she was a young mother.  Next, Ava proceeds to tell her mother's story before she finally reaches her own.  As far as a plot beyond that I can't say much.  There is no single conflict with rising and falling action.  There is no set goal a character is working toward throughout the entire book.  There is no mold that the events of this book could fit into.  Despite all this, the story line still manages to draw you in and keep you enticed until the very end.

Rather than base the book on a set plot, the book relies heavily on recurring themes. Themes like love, loss, pain, and sorrow that are intricately woven throughout the story.  This book has been categorized as "magical realism" which fits the story perfectly. It takes place in the same world we live in with the same natural laws and everything.  The magic and seemingly impossible portions of this book were presented in such a casual way that I accepted most of them without thought, which gave the book an overall more true and organic feel. This isn't to say that most of said magical portions weren't totally weird. They were. They definitely were. But rather than being weird to the point where you either put the book down or started treating it like a comedy, the magical weirdness added to the beauty of the book and gave you a new appreciation for the writing. 

I can't say enough good things about the writing of this book.  It was absolutely stunning.  The poetic feel of this book introduced you to new settings and characters in such a lyrical and flowing way that you couldn't help but slip into the story.  The places of the story, whether it be the house at the end of Pinnacle Lane or the little French bakery, were presented with such fantastic imagery that I feel like I know exactly what each one looks like; I feel like I've been there myself.  The characters were so real and raw I felt I knew them personally.  Each one was new and different with their own unique back story that enabled you to delve deeper into their character and increase your understanding.

Ultimately, I absolutely loved this book. It was beautiful yet slightly haunting and even now that I've finished it I can't get it out of my head.  Leslye Walton's debut novel will not disappoint, and I would recommend it to just about everyone.

Sherman Jefferson