Saturday, July 14, 2018

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Despite her full-ride scholarship to a prestigious fine-arts high school, Jordan is not getting cast in any productions. Between her height, her Chinese-American features, and her Alto 2 vocal range, there just aren't parts suitable for her. Maybe her parents are right, and she should move back home.  Then, she sees the audition notice: the school's most prestigious a cappella group, the Sharpshooters, has one open slot.  Jordan decides to take her shot, but there's just one problem: the Sharpshooters is an all-male ensemble. Can Jordan pass as a guy and make it into the group?  What will happen when she's found out?

I enjoyed this book tremendously. Great character development, great details about music and singing, great discussion of masculinity and femininity.  I would have liked to see a little more of Jordan when she wasn't in disguise; I felt like that had to be a larger portion of her life than the book showed -- but all in all, really fun.  If you like realistic YA, and especially if you have an interest in a cappella, give this one a try!

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus -- A nerd, a jock, a homecoming princess, and a juvenile delinquent walk into detention. Their fifth companion is Simon, sole proprietor of the school's notorious gossip app. Fifteen minutes later, Simon is dead. The circumstances are suspicious: all of the students were busted by a strict teacher for having phones in their bag -- but the phones he confiscated weren't theirs. Simon died of anaphylactic shock due to his peanut allergy, and the emergency EpiPens were missing from the nurse's office. And a post is queued up on Simon's app that reveals the darkest secrets of the other four students in the room. Was one of them willing to kill to keep that information from being revealed?

I found this mystery tightly plotted, with great characters and a compelling mystery. I felt like the bit after the climax dragged ever so slightly, but up until then the pacing was great. The four different audiobook narrators did a great job, and the shift from one voice to another may have helped keep my attention strong. Four is a good number of different perspectives for this sort of book, especially since the author did a good job of sharing out information between the four. If you like YA mysteries, this is a strong one.

(Reviewed from an e-audiobook borrowed through my library system.)

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins

Jooles, Alix, and their parents go on vacation at the beach.

Did this book even have a plot? Not really. An average family goes on a beach vacation, they do inexpensive touristy things, they go home. I can see child readers who don’t mind a simple plot but want characters they can empathize with enjoying this book, especially if those readers are dreaming of a beach vacation. But I kept waiting for some sort of driving plot line, and there just isn’t one here. Pleasant enough, but meandering.

(Reviewed from an e-audiobook borrowed through my library system.)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Charlie is determined that the weekend of her older sister’s wedding is going to be perfect — but it seems that everything that can possibly go wrong, is going wrong.

This was a fun read, though I would not recommend it to anyone who might be involved in planning or participating in a wedding in the near future! I never completely connected with the characters, but that might just be me. (I also found the string of disasters more anxiety-inducing than entertaining, but I’m pretty sure that’s just me.) If you like light, realistic YA (and aren’t planning a wedding any time soon!), you might want to take a look at this one.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

When Zelie was a child, magic went away. Then came the Raid, when the soldiers killed all of the adult magic users, including Zelie’s mother. Children like Zelie, who had not yet come into their powers, were allowed to live, albeit as second-class citizens, since they would now never develop magic powers. But what if there was a way to bring magic back?

There’s so much good stuff going on in this book. The world building is terrific, unlike anything you’ve read. The magic system is strong, though less unique (elemental magic), and the characters are well-written and distinctive. I felt like the quest dragged on in a few places, and at one point I thought the characters made a poor decision that was out of the normal for them. There’s also one character, Inan, who does a lot of flip-flopping even though he isn’t written as weak or indecisive. However, on the whole, I enjoyed this very much. Recommended to readers of fantasy.

(Reviewed from an e-audiobook borrowed through my library system.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

At the beginning of her freshman year of college, Penny meets Sam through a mutual acquaintance. Perhaps things would have ended there, except that a few days later she helps Sam through a severe panic attack -- something that she, herself, has experienced. They exchange phone numbers and jokingly agree to be each other's "emergency contact." Their relationship develops entirely through text messages for several weeks -- but can it survive the various circumstances each faces in real life?

These characters are really endearing. I think Rainbow Rowell said it best when she blurbed it -- you just want to send them a care package! The plot meanders a little, and I got a little irritated with Penny's treatment of her mother. I also found the ending a little abrupt, albeit satisfying, though one plot point never got wrapped up in a satisfying way. If you're into realistic YA books, this one is worth checking out.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

Lady Imogene Chively is kind of dreading the upcoming house party, to be honest: her lone suitor from her recent London season is coming, and though he is a pleasant young man and a good match, her shy personality means entertaining any company can be a bit of a chore. Fortunately, her bubbly friend Emily will also be on hand. Ernest Steeple, the aforementioned suitor, does arrive, as does his brother Ben. Over the course of that house party and the ones that follow, Imogene slowly realizes that she is not in love with Ernest — but she may be falling in love with Ben! Worse, a chain of seemingly accidental misfortunes have befallen Ben. Is someone trying to get him out of the way?

I found this Regency romance thoroughly enjoyable. The pacing was a bit leisurely, but the characters were so nicely drawn and the plot so interesting that I didn’t mind taking my time with it. I listened to the audiobook, which only added to my enjoyment. Recommended to Regency fans, and I’ll be seeking out more books by this author.

(Reviewed from an e-audiobook borrowed through my library system.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Livy doesn’t remember anything from the last time she visited her grandmother in Australia — especially the weird green creature (chicken? zombie?) waiting for her in the bedroom closet. His name is Bob, and they were best friends when she was five. But what kind of creature is Bob, and where does he belong?

Ahh, this was so sweet! I loved the characters, especially Bob. Readers of middle-grade fantasy will enjoy this book.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Twinkle Mehra wants to be a filmmaker, but her ventures thus far have been limited. When Sahil Roy, aspiring film critic, suggests that she direct a film for her school's Midsummer festival, she agrees: not only will this give her a chance to develop her art, but maybe it will bring her closer to Sahil's crush-worthy twin brother Neil. As they work on the project together, Twinkle can't deny that she has feelings for Sahil -- but Neil could be her ticket into the popular clique at school, and that's a dream she's not quite ready to give up -- especially since she's been getting secret admirer emails from someone who signs his name "N." When Twinkle starts power-tripping and her world begins to fall apart as a result, will she be able to pick up the pieces and learn from her mistakes?

I enjoyed this book even more than When Dimple Met Rishi. Sahil is adorkably sweet and almost too perfect. Twinkle goes through a slightly over-the-top bout of self-centered nastiness in the middle of the book, but pulls out of it in a way that redeemed the character for me. If you like lighthearted realistic YA books, I'd recommend this one.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

Apollo, forced by Zeus' wrath to survive as a mortal teenager, is not having a great time. His quest to find the five missing Oracles is proving more difficult than he could have expected. Not only is he feeling the lack of his godly powers, but he's also dealing with the confusing emotional connections he's making in the mortal world. Now, he and his friends are facing down their biggest challenge yet: a sadistic emperor, an angry Titan, a reincarnated sorceress, and a portion of the Labyrinth corrupted with polluted flames that are slowly turning the western landscape into a wasteland. Some friends are on hand to help, but the costs will be high.

A friend asked me if this was just more of Riordan's usual monster-fighting shtick, but I didn't get that more-of-the-same feel from this book. He's doing some interesting stuff here with Apollo's character development. I mean, there are definitely still monsters and snark, but I'm not bored with this series yet. (Also, I was right about the identity of the third emperor.) Fans will read this, of course -- and if Riordan lost you somewhere along the way, you might pick up the first in this series and see if he can win you back.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)