Guarding the Lake by Dana Burkey

Guarding the Lake is a quick, fun read that I adored. Natalie is elated to learn that the boy she has been crushing on likes her back. Or does he? Natalie displayed a great deal of integrity, and I was relieved with the way things ended (since this is such a short book, it’s hard not to give anything away!). I found the book to read quite realistically, which is sometimes a challenge with YA books (I love YA, but it seems like a lot of times the characters have the maturity of a 20 year old, not a 16 or 17 year old). I look forward to checking out more of Dana Burkey’s work.

My only critique is that the chapters ended abruptly, which made transitioning between scenes feel a bit choppy.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The copy I reviewed was in audio book format, and the narrator, Amy Hilburn, does an excellent job.

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Snowed by Maria Alexander

31559083I’ll admit, I chose this book based on the cover. Well, I received a free review copy from LibraryThing, but my request was because of the cover art. It is eerie and wonderful.

I am not a huge fantasy fan, but I could not put this book down. Charity, the main character, was someone I could relate to, even though I am not a STEM person or a skeptical. I was bullied for being different back in high school.  I am unfamiliar with Krampus, having only just learned about him last year thanks to American Dad, and I thought the way Maria Alexander retold his story, and Santa’s, was quite interesting. The ending was a disappointment. I’m all for cliff-hangers, but I think I would have preferred the author to stop at the end of the final chapter and not added an epilogue. There is a LOT of cussing, so if you’re put off by swearing, this might be hard to read. I’m not typically a fan of swearing, but it does make the characters more believable.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

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Book cover image via Amazon.com Description: Navy blue/black gradient background with a carousel lit up in the center of the picture.

It wasn’t until I was almost done with this book that I realized I was enjoying it. Starting out, it didn’t seem all that original. Sydney’s mother is similar to Macy’s mother in “The Truth About Forever,” and the major plot (superstar older brother breaking the law, yet parents in denial of it being the son’s fault) reminded me of Carolyn Mackler’s “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things.”

However, I did find myself filled with rage when it came to Sydney’s mother, and I had to remind myself that I shouldn’t throw my phone against the wall (since that’s how I was reading the book). And any book that can provoke such a strong emotion is definitely a book worth reading.

Take it as a Compliment by Maria Stoian

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Book cover courtesy Edinburgh Feminist Review. Cover has a pink background and drawings of a crowd of people in purple and gold tones. The back of one woman is shown with a man pressed against her and she is struggling, not wanting to be touched (though at first glance it looks like they’re dancing).

***Trigger warning: the stories told in this book deal with sexual harassment, assault, rape, etc

 

This book is amazing, and it should be read by anyone who will not be triggered by such a topic. I appreciate that the stories were told not just by women who have experienced rape or harassment; there were at least two stories shared by men. Most of the stories make my heart ache. The last few pages of this book include a guide of “what to do” to support the people in your life who may have been raped or harassed.

Someone I Wanted to Be by Aurelia Wills

***Trigger warning: Attempted rape scene

coverIf this book had been written 20 years ago, it probably would have been one of my favorites. Thinking back to my high school years, I would have related quite well with Leah, the book’s protagonist. Even though we do not share immediate traits, I was often the underdog during my middle and high school years. While her experiences and mine are differently, I still found her to be a believable character.

As an adult, I wanted to give Leah hugs while at the same time shake her and ask her why she let Kristy control her life. The book started out predictable: DUFF Leah trails after gorgeous and bitchy Kristy (admitting that sometimes she hated Kristy) and other friend Corinne, who is also beautiful, but nice, though Corinne also blows Leah off when Kristy demands so. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Kristy, whose mother is dying of cancer, but it’s hard to feel sympathy to someone who ranks up there with Regina George. By the end of Chapter 2, however, the plot turned into something original, though it vaguely reminded me of “Jail Bait” by Leslea Newman (very vaguely). I ended up enjoying the book immensely and wanted to give Leah high 5’s along the way. Even though the book ended neatly and hopeful, I would have loved seeing an epilogue.

I received a copy of this book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for my honest review.

The Trouble with Family by Heather Hobbs

The Trouble with Fa27855978mily allows readers the glimpse of a blended family’s first summer together, told in first-person POV by 14-year-old Molly.

Molly and Ben, her brother, father marries Susan, a divorced mother of three, less than a year after his wife/Molly’s mother died. Not only that, Molly had only met Susan once or twice before the wedding, and her step-siblings are equally unhappy about the arrangement. Molly is forced to share a room with her kleptomaniac stepsister Clara. Susan’s character outraged me at times, especially when she insisted on Molly and Ben calling her “Mom” only a few weeks after the wedding, and when she confiscated Molly’s pen pal letters, insisting that Molly was unknowingly writing to sociopaths. Molly’s father basically sits back and does nothing to intervene, most likely because Susan is prone to tantrums.

As a teen, I might have enjoyed this book more. Had I been a child of a divorced family, I may have found this book more relatable. Overall, it was a good book, but the epilogue was a bit of a let-down. After the climatic last chapter, I had hoped for more of a follow up in the epilogue; however, it was just a few paragraphs about what happened immediately following the climactic scene.

There was some laugh-out-loud dialogue in this book, my favorite being: “I’ve never driven a car and Ben insists it’s harder than it looks. But if you almost run over an old man, you probably should call it a day.”

Stars: 3.5
Genre: Young Adult

* I received a copy of this book from LibaryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for my honest review.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle

20256737Our library is participating in AudioFile’s Sync program, a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+. Check it out here: http://www.audiobooksync.com/

I downloaded this book via Sync, and I wasn’t quite sure what it was about, as the book description seemed vague. I was delighted to learn that the book starts out in Pittsburgh, PA, my hometown, and I smiled every time the author referenced the streets and neighborhoods that I was familiar with.

Vivian Apple is a 17-year-old girl whose parents joined the Church of America, a “Christian cult.” The book begins on the night of Rapture’s Eve (the Prophet Frick had predicted the date that his church would be Raptured). The next morning, sure enough, Vivian’s parents, and her best friend Harp’s parents, are missing, with evidence showing that they were, in deed, Raptured. Vivian and Harp don’t believe that, though. Thousands of believers have disappeared, but even more believers have not. Were they just not good enough? Or were they left behind in order to harvest more souls for God’s kingdom when the second Rapture happens (predicted to occur 6 months after the first rapture). Vivian receives a mysterious phone call, which she traces to San Francisco, and along with Harp and their acquaintance Peter, the three teens embark in a cross-country journey to find answers to what really happened.

The book held my attention from the get-go, and the last chapter blew my mind. I very much look forward to picking up the sequel from my library tomorrow morning.