It Came From the Sky by Chelsea Sedoti #bookreview #YA #contemporary #aliens #TuesdayBookBlog

From the author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett and As You Wish comes the unforgettable story of the one small town’s biggest hoax and the two brothers who started it all.

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town―it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

Told in a report format and comprised of interviews, blog posts, text conversations, found documents, and so much more, It Came from the Sky is a hysterical and resonant novel about what it means to be human in the face of the unknown.

I enjoyed every minute of this crazy, bizarre, hilarious book and the brothers who engineered this quirky town’s biggest hoax.

Science genius Gideon and Ishmael, his Hawaiian shirt-wearing brother who prefers to coast through life, are polar opposites in almost every way and go into this hoax with different objectives.  Ishmael is looking to top his record for practical jokes at their high school.  Gideon, with a lifelong goal of working for NASA, visualizes it as a way to distinguish him from thousands of other MIT applicants and ensure his acceptance.  Obviously, everything about this is a bad idea, but watching the story unfold and spiral out of control makes for such a pleasurable read.

In the midst of all this, Gideon is also learning to navigate a relationship with his first boyfriend.  Being science-oriented, he prefers to deal in facts and rules, so personal relationships and the emotions and nuances that come with them are difficult for him to understand.  His character arc is strong, heartfelt, and one of my favorite things about this novel.

As the description indicates, the narrative is broken up by interviews, blog posts, footnotes, etc., and while some readers felt them a distraction, I thought they worked well with the tone of the story.  Some of them also caused me to burst out laughing.

Along with the hijinx, supposed alien abductions, a giant lava lamp, and a runaway cow named Muffin are incredibly supportive friendships, strong family bonds, and powerful life lessons on acceptance and self-worth.  If you’re looking for a light-hearted, entertaining read, grab a copy of It Came From the Sky.  This book is scheduled for publication August 1st, 2020.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Prelude for Lost Souls by Helene Dunbar #bookreview #YA #paranormal

In the town of St. Hilaire, most make their living by talking to the dead. In the summer, the town gates open to tourists seeking answers while all activity is controlled by The Guild, a sinister ruling body that sees everything.

Dec Hampton has lived there his entire life, but ever since his parents died, he’s been done with it. He knows he has to leave before anyone has a chance to stop him.

His best friend Russ won’t be surprised when Dec leaves—but he will be heartbroken. Russ is a good medium, maybe even a great one. He’s made sacrifices for his gift and will do whatever he can to gain entry to The Guild, even embracing dark forces and contacting the most elusive ghost in town.

But when the train of Annie Krylova, the piano prodigy whose music has been Dec’s main source of solace, breaks down outside of town, it sets off an unexpected chain of events. And in St. Hilaire, there are no such things as coincidences.

Honestly, after I read the first line about most people in St. Hilaire making their living by talking to the dead, I didn’t need to read any further.  Attention secured.

One of my favorite things about this book is the friendship between Dec and Russ.  Both have suffered tragic losses in their lives, but know they can count on each other no matter what.  Everyone needs a friendship like that in their life, although at some points it seems as if the balance shifts with Dec taking more than he gives.  Each is at a crossroads where the decisions they make will significantly impact not only their lives, but also their loved ones – especially Dec.  Russ is struggling with some personal demons (not literal ones – but he does struggle with literal ghosts) that may prevent him from achieving his goals.

While Dec and Russ had to maneuver through hurdles and obstacles, Anna didn’t seem to have as much agency.  She shares POVs with Dec and Russ, but primarily exists to support other story lines.  I’d love to see her play a bigger role in the second book.

Something I never had a firm grasp on was The Guild.  Their presence looms like a dark cloud over the story, and they control many activities of citizens in the town, but exactly how they obtained that power and how they used the money brought in from tourists and other sources was never clear to me.

I’d describe this book as a quiet paranormal that reads like a contemporary.  It may lack heartstopping reveals or shocking twists, but the story takes you by the hand and leads you on a pleasant supernatural journey.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales #bookreview #YA #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease

Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.

Being a fan of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I couldn’t pass on requesting this novel.  I can see how it’s very loosely based on Grease in that there was a summer romance, but things are different in the fall after they meet again at school.  No matter – it was a sweet, melancholy read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Ollie is a perfect narrator, and I loved his voice from the first page.  Equal parts awkward, adorable, funny, loyal, and just plain entertaining.  He makes an astute observation about Ronald McDonald that made me glad I wasn’t drinking anything – totally would have snorted it out.  Was he obsessed with Will?  Yeah, kind of.  Did he let that obsession rule his life?  Mostly, no.  Ollie also spends his time working on his music, hanging out with friends, and helping take care of his young cousins while their mother battles cancer.  His genuine and delightful scenes with the kids are among my favorites, and Ollie has the patience of a saint.  His parents and aunt and uncle aren’t strong presences in the story, but you definitely get the sense family is very important to them.

Heavy topics are dealt with – cancer of a family member, homophobia, fat shaming, biphobia – which I felt were handled well.  More differentiation between some of the  supporting characters would have helped – I kept getting a few of them mixed up – but it really didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

If you’re a Simon fan, I definitely recommend adding this book to your list.  A fun way to spend an afternoon.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

 

 

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith #bookreview #YA #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight.

I may not be a gamer (unless you count playing the Harry Potter Lego game on my old Xbox 360), but it’s not a prerequisite for understanding and enjoying this book.

So many important issues are addressed in this story – online safety, internet trolls and bullying, and doxxing, to name a few.  Divya is a victim of online harrassment, which is a criminal offense.  What happens to her is frightening – but what’s worse is things like this happen every day.  The haters are out there, folks.

The author does an outstanding job of writing from a female perspective.  Divya’s reaction to these events is inspiring.  She’s fierce, determined, and refuses to let the trolls deprive her of her virtual safe space filled with a community of people doing what they enjoy.  Aaron is also dealing with some problems of his own, but is a sweetheart and a perfect example of a supportive friend.  I loved being in the game, and the vivid imagery made me feel like I was experiencing it along with the characters.

My desire to see the trolls get what they deserve kept me reading long after I should have turned out the light.  With the tension-filled buildup, I was ready to see them crash and burn.  But then everything seemed to be over rather suddenly, and I still felt as if things were unresolved.  Maybe it’s just a revenge thing on my part.

Although this book deals with some heavy issues, it’s also full of clever banter, pop culture references (bonus points for mentioning John Cusack and Say Anything), strong friendships, and a little romance.  I plowed through it in two days.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  This is release day for Don’t Read the Comments and I’m excited to be part of the blog tour!

Author Bio:

Eric Smith is an author, prolific book blogger, and literary agent from New Jersey, currently living in Philadelphia. Smith cohosts Book Riot’s newest podcast, HEY YA, with non-fiction YA author Kelly Jensen. He can regularly be found writing for Book Riot’s blog, as well as Barnes & Noble’s Teen Reads blog, Paste Magazine, and Publishing Crawl. Smith also has a growing Twitter platform of over 40,000 followers (@ericsmithrocks).

 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Read-Comments-Eric-Smith/dp/1335016023
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dont-read-the-comments-eric-smith/1131303425#/
Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Dont-Read-Comments/Eric-Smith/9781335016027?d=7715580291810
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/don-t-read-the-comments
Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335016027
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Eric_Smith_Don_t_Read_the_Comments?id=Go6PDwAAQBAJ

 

Social Links: 

Author website: https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/
Twitter: @ericsmithrocks 
Instagram: @ericsmithrocks
Facebook: @ericsmithwrites

A Thousand Fires by Shannon Price #bookreview #YA #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

10 Years. 3 Gangs. 1 Girl’s Epic Quest…

Valerie Simons knows the city’s gang wars are dangerous—her own brother was killed by the Boars two years ago. But nothing will sway her from joining the elite and beautiful Herons to avenge his death—a death she feels responsible for.

But when Valerie is recruited by the mysterious Stags, their charismatic and volatile leader Jax promises to help her get revenge. Torn between old love and new loyalty, Valerie fights to stay alive as she races across the streets of San Francisco to finish the mission that got her into the gangs.

Gang wars, revenge, and volatile leaders?  As a Sons of Anarchy fan, I couldn’t wait to read this (even though the gangs aren’t MCs).

First, let me say that it took enormous effort on my part to put down my Kindle while reading this – I was riveted.  Valerie losing her younger brother is a tragic story, and her warring emotions are well-portrayed.  Important topics such as depression, cutting, and talk of suicide are also addressed.  While much of this book is very dark, having a supportive circle of family and friends is emphasized.  The origin of the gangs is explained well, and the Stags fight against gentrification is understandable.  I found myself rooting for them – just maybe not for all the methods used in their fight.

While I felt I knew Valerie and Micah pretty well, when it came to Jax, there were still several blank spaces by the end of the book.  Valerie’s feelings for him seemed to be based on nothing more than his looks and the information he possessed that she wanted.  He’s an interesting character, and I craved more details.  The Westons and their influence were also a gray area for me, and more explanation of their involvement would have helped.

Taking the subject matter into account, don’t expect a unicorns and rainbow-type of ending, but many things are resolved.  With a compelling tale involving themes of family, revenge, betrayal, and grief, this is a fantastic debut novel, and I’ll be looking for future books by this author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

 

Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre #bookreview #YA #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

A dark, romantic YA suspense novel with an SF edge and plenty of drama, layering the secrets we keep and how appearances can deceive, from the New York Times bestselling author.

In this tiny, terrifying town, the lost are never found. When Araceli Flores Harper is sent to live with her great-aunt Ottilie in her ramshackle Victorian home, the plan is simple. She’ll buckle down and get ready for college. Life won’t be exciting, but she’ll cope, right?

Wrong. From the start, things are very, very wrong. Her great-aunt still leaves food for the husband who went missing twenty years ago, and local businesses are plastered with MISSING posters. There are unexplained lights in the woods and a mysterious lab just beyond the city limits that the locals don’t talk about. Ever. When she starts receiving mysterious letters that seem to be coming from the past, she suspects someone of pranking her or trying to drive her out of her mind. To solve these riddles and bring the lost home again, Araceli must delve into a truly diabolical conspiracy, but some secrets fight to stay buried… 

I’ve never read this author before, but when the book description mentioned a small town with secrets, and suspense with a sci-fi edge, I knew it was time to become acquainted with her work.

This book grabbed me right away.  Araceli feels a presence in the attic, and actually sees the string attached to a light bulb turn on by itself – I was all in.  Mysterious lights in the forest, loads of people missing, a box that transports letters to a recipient decades earlier – it just got better.  A lot goes on in this novel, and that’s something I enjoyed about it.  It’s also an usual blend of contemporary, romance, suspense, and sci-fi, something that should attract readers of several genres.

Traveling with her journalist parents for most of her life, Araceli has experienced things most teens can’t imagine, so it’s understandable that she dives into these mysteries head first.  While I admire her bravery and determination, she also comes across as selfish and headstrong, since she doesn’t always consider the consequences of her actions – especially when they involve the lives of other people.  Then again, these are the actions of a teenager.

I don’t generally read YA contemporary, but with sci-fi, suspense, and time travel tossed into the mix, I plowed through this book in a couple of days.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

 

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin #bookreview #YA #contemporary

Mean Girls meets The Tudors in Hannah Capin’s The Dead Queens Club, a clever contemporary YA retelling of Henry VIII and his wives (or, in this case, his high school girlfriends). Told from the perspective of Annie Marck (“Cleves”), a 17-year-old aspiring journalist from Cleveland who meets Henry at summer camp, The Dead Queens Club is a fun, snarky read that provides great historical detail in an accessible way for teens while giving the infamous tale of Henry VIII its own unique spin.

What do a future ambassador, an overly ambitious Francophile, a hospital-volunteering Girl Scout, the new girl from Cleveland, the junior cheer captain, and the vice president of the debate club have in common? It sounds like the ridiculously long lead-up to an astoundingly absurd punchline, right? Except it’s not. Well, unless my life is the joke, which is kind of starting to look like a possibility given how beyond soap opera it’s been since I moved to Lancaster. But anyway, here’s your answer: we’ve all had the questionable privilege of going out with Lancaster High School’s de facto king. Otherwise known as my best friend. Otherwise known as the reason I’ve already helped steal a car, a jet ski, and one hundred spray-painted water bottles when it’s not even Christmas break yet. Otherwise known as Henry. Jersey number 8.

Meet Cleves. Girlfriend number four and the narrator of The Dead Queens Club, a young adult retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. Cleves is the only girlfriend to come out of her relationship with Henry unscathed—but most breakups are messy, right? And sometimes tragic accidents happen…twice…

I’m not a big history buff, but I watched The Tudors series on Netflix several years ago and was hooked.  Given, it was highly dramatized, but you can’t tell me there weren’t clandestine meetings, backstabbings, political maneuverings, and power plays during that time.  And then, of course, there was Henry and his wives.  When I saw this book, I was instantly curious about a modern day retelling – in high school, no less.

The author is very clever in how she created her characters based on the historical figures, bringing the queens, Henry, and some of their acquaintances into modern day.  Cleves, based on Anne of Cleves, who was queen for a few short months, is Henry’s best friend.  Like Henry VIII, this Henry has a wandering eye and a long string of girlfriends.  Loosely paralleling their historical relationship, Cleves and Henry date for an awkward couple of weeks, but decide they’re better as friends.  Cleves is blindly loyal, awkward, and her snark had me chuckling several times.

Make no mistake – this high school is just as socially treacherous as Henry the VIII’s court, with suspicious deaths and characters falling out of favor.  Scheming, plotting, and gossip abound, making up a large portion of the book, but occasionally don’t do much to advance the story.  All the back and forth is difficult to follow at times, but once the book hits the 75% mark, things move along quickly.

I didn’t enjoy this read as much as I’d hoped, but that’s more me than the book.  I’m not a big fan of Mean Girls and erratic high school drama, but judging by other reviews, many readers thought The Dead Queens Club was fabulous.  This book is scheduled for publication January 29th, 2019.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

 

Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky #bookreview #YA #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

Although I’m not usually a big reader of YA contemporary, after reading the blurb for Mammoth, there’s no way I could pass it up.  I’m kind of a dino nerd – given, there aren’t dinosaurs in this book, but it was close enough for me.

Let me say up front – if you have daughters or know girls who are interested in STEM, steer them toward this book.  It strongly encourages girls to display their intelligence front and center, pursue their goals, and be themselves.  After they read it, encourage them to make better choices than Natalie.  She makes one bad decision after another and frustrated me – but she’s such a relatable, personable protagonist that I forgave her.  In her defense, she has good intentions, and also owns up to everything.  Nat’s character arc is incredible, and she’ll charm you from the first page.

Mammoth also contains some standard tropes that are difficult to get away from in YA – a love triangle, a rich, mean girl, and an awesome guy who maybe really isn’t, but all the supporting characters are well-written.

If you’re looking for a fresh, highly enjoyable read that also tackles some very relevant issues, Mammoth easily fills those requirements.

Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the ARC.

Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong #bookreview #YA #contemporary

Three years after losing her brother Luka in a school shooting, Skye Gilchrist is moving home. But there’s no sympathy for Skye and her family because Luka wasn’t a victim; he was a shooter.

Jesse Mandal knows all too well that the scars of the past don’t heal easily. The shooting cost Jesse his brother and his best friend–Skye.

Ripped apart by tragedy, Jesse and Skye can’t resist reopening the mysteries of their past. But old wounds hide darker secrets. And the closer Skye and Jesse get to the truth of what happened that day, the closer they get to a new killer.

With school shootings becoming all too heart-breakingly common, this novel may not be for everyone.  I will say the content is more about the aftermath (hence, the title), and focuses more on the grieving loved ones left behind.

With hints that the details of the shooting may not be entirely truthful, this book kept me turning the pages – and also because of Jesse and Skye.  Both are well-developed characters who struggle to reconnect and revive their friendship years after a horrendous tragedy.  Their relationship depicts what a strong friendship should be built on – support, humor, common interests, shared experiences, and steadfast loyalty.

Although the author offers several suspects, I guessed who the ‘villain’ was before the halfway point, but never really bought into this person’s motives and actions. Things still seemed a little unclear when all was said and done.  The behavior and actions, or lack of action, of a couple of adult characters also required me to suspend my disbelief a bit.

Aftermath deals with sensitive subject matter and handles it respectfully, but don’t look for commentary on the politics surrounding gun control.  This is a straightforward YA thriller with an intriguing mystery.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

When The Beat Drops by Anna Hecker #bookreview #YA

Seventeen-year-old Mira has always danced to her own beat. A music prodigy in a family of athletes, she’d rather play trumpet than party—and with her audition to a prestigious jazz conservatory just around the corner (and her two best friends at music camp without her), she plans to spend the summer focused on jazz and nothing else.

She only goes to the warehouse party in a last-ditch effort to bond with her older sister. Instead, she falls in love with dance music, DJing…and Derek, a gorgeous promoter who thinks he can make her a star. Suddenly trumpet practice and old friendships are taking a backseat to packed dance floors, sun-soaked music festivals, outsized personalities, and endless beats.

But when a devastating tragedy plunges her golden summer into darkness, Mira discovers just how little she knows about her new boyfriend, her old friends, and even her own sister. Music is what brought them together…but will it also tear them apart? – Goodreads.com

As a music lover and former band geek, I was immediately drawn to this book.  Mira’s obsession with music, ambitious goals, and close relationship with her family make her instantly likable.  Despite that close relationship, she feels as if her parents always put her sister’s needs and interests ahead of her own, and Mira’s very accommodating and understanding for her age.  I admired her determination to work on her goals, try new experiences, and meet new people instead of sitting around sulking after missing music camp.  The dynamics between Mira and her best friends are genuine and relatable, and getting an insider’s view of DJ-ing made this tech-lover very happy.

The first 70% of this book was enjoyable read for me, but soon after, things seem to go off the rails.  I’ll try to put this in general terms to avoid spoilers.  I found it difficult to believe that parents would be oblivious to such a profound change in their child’s appearance and actions.  Mira and her family are dealing with, as well as avoiding, several problems, but the blame comes across as misplaced.  By eliminating a certain aspect from their lives, everything is resolved, which is an unrealistic expectation.  Questions are left unanswered, I was ultimately disappointed at certain choices that didn’t ring true for the character, and the ending felt rushed.

My issues are personal, and I’d still recommend this book to music lovers, because it’s rare to find books exploring that world – they’re few and far between, and I’d love to see more.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.