The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
Release date: June 30th, 2015
Rating: 5/5 stars
-I was given an Advance Review Copy of this book by the Penguin Press-
Dionne and Phaedra are two adolescent sisters living with their mom, Avril, in Brooklyn. After deciding that the girls need to get more in touch with their extended family, Avril sends the girls to Barbados for the summer. Dionne and Phaedra spend those hot months living with their grandmother and attending Catholic Summer School–which is very different from the way they were living in New York. Phone calls and letters from Avril become scarce, and the girls become closer to their grandmother and community in Barbados. Both Dionne and Phaedra use this summer to grow and learn more about the family their mother left behind.
This is such a beautiful coming of age novel for two girls. Dionne and Phaedra are, by far, different characters but they both come to a point of realization and mental/emotional growth by the end of the novel. They share the narration of the story equally and the reader comfortably gets to know both characters and understand how their brains work.
I loved this book, I loved the writing, and I loved the characters. Jackson did such a phenomenal job with character development, even for the somewhat minor ones. I feel like I really got to know the grandmother, the neighbors, and the classmates that interacted with the girls every day. Since I am closer to Dionne’s age, I connected with her the most. Jackson definitely made her struggles genuine. They are struggles that I’ve dealt with myself. Seeing Dionne grow into a confident young woman made me feel proud for her and I definitely saw aspects of my own life and decisions in her’s. There was definitely a big smile on my face when I was reading the ending of the novel.
I’m going to categorize this book in both the young adult and adult section of my blog. I truly think that all women and girls should read this book at some point so PLEASE put this on your “to buy/read” list for next month! I’m grateful that I got to read it in advance!
In the Blood of the Greeks by Mary D. Brooks
Rating: 5/5 stars
*I was approved to review this book on NetGalley and received an e-book copy*
“Am I going to Hell?”
“For what? Breaking a promise that you couldn’t possibly be able to keep? You can’t control your heart, Eva…I also don’t believe in Hell.”
Zoe is growing up in Greece during World War II while her town of Larissa is taken over by the Nazis. Her hatred for the Germans grows daily, as she has lost family and friends to the war. Eva, a German girl in her early 20’s, moves into Larissa with her father, a powerful Nazi leader. Zoe reluctantly becomes Eva’s maid in hopes of taking down the Germans from the inside. Zoe and Eva, despite their differences, develop a unique friendship and eventually growing feelings for each other. Already been through conversion therapy once, Eva is reluctant to begin another relationship with a female. Still, the two find it hard to deny their mutual attraction.
Yes, yes, yes!! This is one of the best LGBT young adult books I’ve ever read. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel to any young girl (or woman) trying to explore her feelings and sexuality. This book put such a positive spin on coming out as gay and self-acceptance that many lesbians struggle with. Books like this give me hope that F/F relationships will become more mainstream in YA fiction.
I really loved both main characters and found that switching between their POVs was helpful in understanding their thought processes. Zoe is 14, the appropriate age for women to marry in Greece, but still very much a child. She is naive in the best ways, seeing nothing wrong with her feelings towards Eva and embracing herself. As a result of losing so many loved ones and experiencing death everywhere around her, Zoe grows into a fearless young adult. She was such a pleasure to get to know.
Eva, on the other hand, broke my heart. I read her narration as someone suffering from PTSD (due to past trauma and conversion therapy). Her inward struggles display themselves physically and mentally and it was so sad to see that through her words. Eva starts off as a shell of a person who once played against the rules and develops into a character who is learning to love again (with Zoe’s help). Although Eva’s mental conversation was less exciting than Zoe’s, I enjoyed reading her’s a little bit more.
I’m so thankful that I was approved to receive and review a copy of this book. I look forward to reading the next few books in the series!
Voice of Innocence by Lindsay Detwiler
Rating: 5/5 stars
“Life, as I’ve learned, fails to be a concrete, concise package that can easily be wrapped up and contained. Life is full of messy, unpredictable circumstances that test not only our characters, but the people around us as well.”
I was given an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Corbin and Emma meet on the first day of their sophomore year art class. Emma stumbles with her words and is embarrassingly uncreative, while Corbin dreams of attending an art school after graduation. The two are seemingly opposites, but soon find themselves completing each other. Corbin brings out the fun in Emma–he takes her out sledding on snow days and adventures in the woods. Emma helps Corbin heal and overcome the hardships in his life. They are a perfect couple, but their world gets torn apart with Corbin is convicted of murder. Corbin is innocent, but is sentenced to a life behind bars. 28 years later, evidence of the real killer arises and Corbin is set free. Where does that leave him and Emma?
This book tore me apart. I was so excited for Emma and Corbin’s journey through their first love. I enjoyed the innocent passion they felt for each other. Every step in their relationship made me smile. Somehow, at the same time, this book ripped my heart out and crushed it.
It’s so hard to think of a life that could have been, but was unjustly stopped short. No one can say who had it worse– Corbin behind bars or Emma having to give up on the life planned out ahead of her. I was sad for both of them and was in a bad mood for half of my time spent reading this book. I wondered why I was feeling so upset a few days ago, and realized it was because Corbin and Emma were in a fight. Lindsay Detwiler certainly has a way of capturing the reader and pulling them into her world.
This was a quick read, but a great one. It’s full of angst and I loved it!
Awoken by Sarah Noffke
Rating: 5/5 stars
I was given a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
“Roya, when you stop viewing your life as something done to you and rather a reality of your choosing then you will find peace.”
Roya Stark is the outcast of her family and is constantly reminded of her differences by her emotionally abusive older brother. Not only does her light hair stand out from her entirely brunette family, she has the power to dream travel across space and time. Her life is changed when she’s called to compete for a group called the Lucidites, specialized dream travelers from around the world. The Lucidites are teaming up against an evil force who has been putting innocent people into an hallucinogen state. If the Lucidites fail to take down this man, everyone will soon be in danger of dreaming without ever waking up.
This is one of the best young adult books I’ve read in a while. The beginning was a bit confusing because Sarah Noffke throws the reader into a new, fantastical world without really giving any backstory or explanation. This actually worked to her advantage because Roya is also extremely confused in the beginning of the book, so it adds to the dazed and bewildered effect.
Often, I find that YA fantasy books are all a bit similar plot-wise, but this book had a lot of unique traits. I was caught off guard so many times, especially after the novel started picking up in the second half. Also, Sarah Noffke did a great job making Roya a relatable character; she felt very real to me from the very beginning. I could actually imagine a girl Roya’s age saying, reading, and wearing the same things as her. This aspect made the novel surreal and probably why I loved it so much.
Overall, this was a really gripping book with a bit of humor (Roya is very sarcastic). I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good, thrilling YA read.
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Rating: 5/5 stars
“I tried so hard to think– but there was only one word on my mind and that word was ‘Annie'”
Liza Winthrop is a high school senior busy with student council, college applications, and attending an extremely Catholic school. While visiting a museum, she runs into a girl, Annie, who completely turns her life around. Annie shares her world, a low-income town and a room full of flowers, while Liza shares hers, a love for architecture and a caring younger brother. These two girls become inseparable and somewhere along the way find themselves with deeper feelings for each other.
I cannot express how important this book is. This is the book to read for adolescent girls trying to discover their sexualities. The story of Liza and Annie is so touching and real that it can really speak to young adults experiencing the same feelings, questions, and confusion. Every time I hear of a girl struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, I just want to shove this book in her face and say “it’s okay! Stop beating yourself up for something you have no control over”.
Not only is this an important LGBT novel, but it’s such a cute story. It’s a story about two people discovering what it means to love someone and seeing how powerful that emotion can be. Annie on My Mind may be about two girls, but has nothing to do with the fact that it’s like every other novel written about teenagers falling in love. I loved everything about this book and found myself in a good mood every time I picked it up.
Room by Emma Donohgue
Rating: 3.4/5 stars
Jack has just turned 5 years old, and his world consists of an 11×11 foot room. This doesn’t bother him much because he knows nothing of the outside world. Now that he’s 5, Ma begins to tell Jack that grass, ice cream, and other kids actually exist on the other side of Wall and Roof and not just in the TV. Jack and Ma create a plan to escape Room, but it’s extremely risky. If they were able to escape, how would Jack cope with being outside in the fresh air, with other people for the first time?
This book was just okay. There was nothing really special about it and I honestly don’t understand what all the hype is around it. I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters, so I was really ambivalent to any of the big events that happened to Ma or Jack. There were horrible, traumatic, and sad things that occurred throughout the book, but I didn’t have that emotional attachment to care about them enough.
I think the problem with Room is that its entirely narrated by a five year old kid. This, obviously, makes his world very bias. The book would have been so much deeper if it had switched between Ma and Jacks POVs. By sticking only to Jack’s POV, it’s almost like Donoghue was taking the easy road. Ma could have been such a complex character, but we merely got a glimpse into how she was feeling.
I understand that this is a great bookclub book– there are a lot of controversial issues to discuss. Despite this, as a pleasure read, I’m disappointed with it. I was really hoping for better.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
“After the sugar caper I never want to see it again.
Here it is, Ed. Nor I, you.”
Min Green has left a box of random objects on her ex-boyfriend, Ed Slaterton’s, doorstep. Each item signifies some event in their relationship that explains why they eventually broke up. It was love at first beer, chasing down an elderly movie star, and coffee with three creams and one sugar. But somehow, Ed blew it, and this is Min telling him exactly how he blew it.
I really wanted to like this book. I have a soft spot in my heart for Daniel Handler after reading “The Series of Unfortunate Events” in elementary school. In 5th grade, we had to write a report on our favorite author and I, of course, chose Daniel Handler. That series taught me to love reading. That being said, this book felt like a waste of my time.
We’ve all heard it before– a quiet girl gets asked out by a jock who says “that’s so gay” and is embarrassed to do well in math class. I can’t count the amount of times Ed tells Min she’s “not like other girls”. What is that even supposed to mean? What is soincredibly wrong with the general population of girls that one must try to dissociate from the entire gender?
I guess I was just annoyed while I read this book. The story wasn’t necessarily boring, just full of stereotypes that made me roll my eyes every few pages. Maybe I just expected too much out of this book.
I promise you that you’ve read or seen this story before–an early 2000’s movie or any other YA romance. This just happens to be told after the happily ever after.
A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
“This is going to be another one of those stories about how she gazed at him adoringly while he stared out the window or something. That’s how a lot of the Gabe stories go these days.”
Lea and Gabe are both incoming freshmen at the same college. They’re sort of “lost souls”, living their own separate lives that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, until they start “flirting” in creative writing class. Lea and Gabe are completely oblivious to the fact that they’re perfect for each other, but that doesn’t their separate friend groups from constantly trying to set them up together.
This book was cute. It was definitely very cute and very-perfect-couple-heavily-flirting type of deal. It was fun at first, but things got a little too predictable towards the end. I felt like a lot of the same ideas and conversations were happening over and over again. Lea and Gabe ALMOST got together so many times. It was frustratingly adorable at first, but then it got old.
A Little Something Different was a very quick and light read. It was a good book, but a good book for the right time. I read this in the midst of a reading slump, and its cheer definitely brought me out of that slump. So, if you’re looking for a fast read that’ll leave you feeling happy, this is it.
A Time to Reap by Jonas Lee
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
“There is going to come a day when the things you say are going to return to you faster than you send them. A wise person would make certain their words aren’t so sharp.”
At the age of 12, Carter found himself developing a strange power called “leaping”. He can essentially jump to different places along earth’s space-time continuum, mostly leaving him confused and lacking clothes. He attends a school for “special” kids like him, sharing a variety of powers, called Pemberton Academy. There, he befriends (and crushes on) a girl named Mo. Mo doesn’t share the exact same powers as Carter, but they are certainly strong. Together, this duo is called to action by some of the most powerful people to ever exist and change the world.
Wow, I’m really glad I read this book! I usually find myself bored halfway through most YA books, but this was an exception. I was drawn in by the 2nd chapter and found myself laughing out loud at the narration–the voice of Carter, a sarcastic, teenage boy. The POV was a very good choice on Jonas Lee’s part.
Carter’s character was extremely well-developed. I feel like I’ve known him for years! I wish that we got to see more of Mo’s personality shine through Carter’s narration. I still feel like I don’t fully understand her and what she was thinking throughout the novel. She was my favorite character and I’m dying to know more about her!
To me, the ending was a bit unsatisfying. But, then again, I think Mr. Lee is setting this up for a sequel? If that’s the case, then it’s the perfect ending and I really really look forward to reading the next book. I can’t wait to get my hands on a paperback copy of this book ASAP!
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
“When someone won’t let you in, eventually you stop knocking. Know what I mean?”
Following his grandfather’s strange and sudden death, Jacob goes on a quest to learn more about the old man’s mysterious childhood. He travels to a strange island off the coast of Wales and discovers an abandoned orphanage. As Jacob explores the place, it turns out that the not-so-abandoned orphanage was actually expecting his arrival.
The concept behind this novel was so A+. The first chapter immediately drew me in. The mixture of a creepy grandfather death and spooky old photos really did the trick. I don’t usually read fantasy or YA, so I was pleasantly surprised with how this novel took off.
Unfortunately, the execution of this A+ idea was not so great. I was bored half-way through the novel. I felt like there were so many plot additions piling up with no resolutions in sight. Despite this, I am glad that I finished the novel. The ending was definitely not a final one–a good set up for the sequel.
Idea: Great. Characters: Great. Plot: Meh.
I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel, but then again, fantasy YA is not usually my genre of choice.