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Review: THE LAST THING YOU SAID


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Title: THE LAST THING YOU SAID
Author: Sara Biren
Release date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 320
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Description…

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief.

Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

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Note: This review is based on a finished copy received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.


The Review

THE LAST THING YOU SAID is a beautifully written, heartachingly sad, and absolutely breathtaking story of friendship, loss, and love. Told from the perspectives of Lucy and Ben, the story takes place over the four months of summer, nearly a year after the death of Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister Trixie. It is a poignant, emotional, and heartrending read that is easily relatable and easy to love, whether or not you’ve experienced the pain of loss.

On the day that Trixie died, Lucy lost more than just her best friend, she lost Ben and the possibility of something more between them. Ben’s guilt at not being able to save his sister has caused him to push Lucy away, leaving them both heartbroken, angry, and alone with their grief.

They managed to avoid each other during the school year, but when summer rolls around they can’t seem to stay out of each other’s way, serving as a constant reminder of Trixie’s absence, of how things used to be, and of what might have been. Their interactions are often filled with silences or angry words, but until they are willing to confront their feelings for one another, they won’t be able to move forward. And unless they are able to find a way through their sorrow, they won’t be able to move on.

Sara Biren’s debut is exquisite and fragile and incredibly affecting. The author perfectly captured the emotions – the anguish and emptiness and anger – that follow the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one. She revealed wonderful and touching memories of a character readers never got to meet, but didn’t make her into a saint. And she gave readers two characters who made mistakes, who were hurting, who were lost, who needed each other, and whose love story was not yet finished.

An impressive and expressive first from Author Sara Biren, THE LAST THING YOU SAID is gorgeous and delicate and without a doubt promises to be a tearful read.

The Rating

Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.


A note on the printing…

The finished hardcover was printed in purple ink, which enhanced the reading experience, adding to both the beauty and sadness of the story.


About Sara Biren

Sara Biren lives just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and their two children. A true Minnesotan, she is a fan of hockey, hotdish, and hanging out at the lake. She enjoys seeing live bands, watching movies with her family, and drinking coffee. Her love of cheese knows no bounds.

Sara is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, on the shores of beautiful Lake Superior, and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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Review: THE INCONCEIVABLE LIFE OF QUINN

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Title: THE INCONCEIVABLE LIFE OF QUINN
Author: Marianna Baer
Release date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 384
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Description…

Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She’s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father’s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers’ home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn’s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets—strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin?

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The Review

Marianna Baer’s THE INCONCEIVABLE LIFE OF QUINN is a unique and unusual story of a girl who discovers she is pregnant, but has no recollection of how, when, or with whom it might have happened. Mainly told from her point of view, but with a number of brief chapters from several others in Quinn’s life, she attempts to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Her search for answers takes her down strange, disturbing, disquieting paths, but also those that are beautiful and magical and filled with wonder. All of which make for a different and haunting and thoroughly engaging read.

The daughter of a politician that turns up pregnant is enough to make headlines. But when it’s uncovered that she claims to be a virgin, the story explodes. Some believe she’s a liar. Some assume she’s covering up a traumatic event. And some believe she’s carrying the next messiah.

Having no memory of the conception, Quinn doesn’t know what to believe. Could she have forgotten a romantic night with her boyfriend Jesse? Could she have blocked out a violent attack from a stranger or someone she knows? Could she have been drugged? Could she be going crazy? Could there have been magical, mystical, or supernatural forces at work? Or could a higher power have bestowed her with a gift?

Her friends think she’s keeping secrets. Her family thinks she’s either lying, deluded, or unhinged. Her therapist wants Quinn to discover the truth by herself. The media loves having a juicy bit of gossip. The religious fanatics just want a piece of her.

And until she can solve the mystery, anything is possible.

Marianna Baer has created a story that has both elements of reality and of myth. She touches upon several real-life issues from unplanned teen pregnancy and the choices that follow, to dysfunctional families, to faith, religion, and zealotry, to mental health and wellness, to sexual assault, to the destructive influence of the media. And she balances this with the possibility of something elemental, spiritual, mythical, otherworldly.

THE INCONCEIVABLE LIFE OF QUINN gives you a lot to think about and invites you to come to your own conclusion. It is a curious, compelling, and rather marvelous tale of a girl whose life is most definitely inconceivable.

The Rating


About Marianna Baer

Marianna Baer received an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BA in art from Oberlin College. She also attended boarding school, where she lived in a tiny dorm called Frost House, the inspiration for her first novel, Frost. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Review: THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN

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Title: THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Release date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Description…

Chloe Mitchell appears to be the it girl: the one with a cute boyfriend, popular friends, and a wide open future. But Chloe’s life isn’t exactly what it seems.  Her older sister, Ivy, has autism, and Chloe worries that she’s Ivy’s only friend.  If Chloe goes away for college, who else is going to remind Ivy to brush her hair each morning or to be polite when someone talks to her?  Chloe wonders if life might be easier if Ivy had someone else in her life: a boyfriend, maybe?

Ethan, a sweet autistic guy in Ivy’s class, seems perfect for Ivy. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy. Chloe and David orchestrate a series of dates between Ivy and Ethan, and to Chloe’s surprise, she has way more fun as part of this unlikely foursome than she does with her popular friends at school. When Chloe’s matchmaking plan goes awry, she’s forced to look inward and realize that an easy life isn’t necessarily what she wants after all.

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Note: This review is based on an eARC received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy has been pre-ordered for my collection.


The Review

THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN is a sweet, funny, happy-making read that offers up a touch of romance, but is much more a story about siblings, and love, and family, and all of their inherent challenges. With a quick pace, a heartwarming narrative, and immensely likable characters, it’s a story that can – and will – easily be read in one sitting.

Chloe Mitchell doesn’t want to resent her perfect boyfriend with his perfect family and his perfect life. She doesn’t want to be envious of her friends whose only worries seem to be about what parties to go to, what tests to study for, or what colleges to attend. And she doesn’t. Not completely. She just wishes her life wasn’t as complicated and messy as it is.

Pretending to be the perfect girlfriend is wearing thin. Try as she might, she can’t keep up the facade that all is good, that she’s got everything under control, and that nothing bothers her – not even the ignorant comments people make about her sister Ivy.

But she doesn’t want to end up a social pariah like David. She just can’t figure out how to keep up appearances while worrying about what’s going to happen with Ivy. She can’t turn to her mom for help. Or her mom’s new husband, Ron. But if she could find someone else for Ivy to spend time with, to trust, to like, and someday, hopefully, to love, then maybe she wouldn’t have to be so stressed all the time.

Claire LaZebnik penned a heartfelt, delightful, and moving story that conveys just how strong the sibling bond can be and how important it is to have someone in your life who understands what you’re going through and who will be there for you when you need them. She introduces characters who are real and sympathetic and relatable. And she puts them in situations that are difficult, stressful, awkward and uncomfortable, emotional, and at times humorous.

Through her characters, she lets readers experience what it’s like to love someone with autism – the joy, the fear, the challenges, the sorrow, the hope. And with her words she will make readers smile, laugh, tear up, and  fall in love with THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.

The Rating


Praise for THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN

“This story about a girl who upends her own life by trying to help someone else is a winning read for young people ready for a realistic romance about life’s challenges… Chloe and her sister are so authentically portrayed, they nearly leap off the page… This story about a girl who upends her own life by trying to help someone else is a winning read for young people ready for a realistic romance about life’s challenges.” —School Library Journal

“A charmingly honest, insightful story about love, family, and frozen yogurt. So good you’ll finish it in one sitting!” —Robyn Schneider, author of The Beginning of Everything and Extraordinary Means

Things I Should Have Known is funny, compassionate, and loving. LaZebnik writes with authority and ease, capturing the complexities of sibling bonds and first love, and crafting characters to root for from start to finish.” —Emma Mills, author of First & Then

“At once romantic and touching, perceptive and honest, Things I Should Have Known is about first love, the bonds of sisterhood, and living your most authentic life. I couldn’t put it down.” —Julie Buxbaum, author of Tell Me Three Things

“A fiercely honest and surprising story about family, first love, and the beauty of individuality. LaZebnik reminds us that sometimes the most wonderful things in life are the things you never expected.” —Ashley Blake, author of Suffer Love


About Claire LaZebnik

CLAIRE LAZEBNIK has written many adult and YA novels, has coauthored two books on autism, and has contributed to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She lives with her TV writer husband and four children, one of whom has autism. She resides in Los Angeles, California.

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Review: 100 HOURS

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Title & Series: 100 HOURS (100 Hours #1)
Author: Rachel Vincent
Release date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 368
Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook

Description…

A decadent spring break getaway on an exotic beach becomes a terrifying survival story when six Miami teens are kidnapped and ransomed.

Maddie is beyond done with her cousin Genesis’s entitled and shallow entourage. Genesis is so over Miami’s predictable social scene with its velvet ropes, petty power plays, and backstabbing boyfriends.

While Maddie craves family time for spring break, Genesis seeks novelty—like a last-minute getaway to an untouched beach in Colombia. And when Genesis wants something, it happens.

But paradise has its price. Dragged from their tents under the cover of dark, Genesis, Maddie, and their friends are kidnapped and held for ransom deep inside the jungle—with no diva left behind. It all feels so random to everyone except Genesis. She knows they were targeted for a reason. And that reason is her.

Now, as the hours count down, only one thing’s for certain: If the Miami hostages can’t set aside their personal problems, no one will make it out alive.

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NOTE: This review is based on an ARC received from the author and an eARC received from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy has been pre-ordered for my collection.


The Review

Action-packed and suspense-filled, 100 HOURS takes readers on a harrowing and nerve-wracking journey through the jungles of South America from not one but two characters’ perspectives. With a pace that is lightning fast, tension that continues to build, and with a few surprise twists, this is a story you will not be able to put down.

What starts off as a simple spring break vacation turns into a terrifying nightmare for Genesis, her cousins, and her friends. Used to being in control of every situation, she did not expect her decision to go to Colombia and hike to their beautiful remote beaches would be anything more than a mild inconvenience for her privileged friends and a step out of her comfort zone for her cousin Maddie.

She couldn’t have anticipated the situation they found themselves in – on the run, fleeing from a gun-toting kidnapper, facing even graver threats. She didn’t think her life held as many secrets as it did. She never imagined that things could go from idyllic to deadly in just 100 hours.

With a quick peek at the present, alternating points of view, and 100 hours to find out just what happened, Rachel Vincent created a gripping, electrifying, twisty-turny thriller. She introduced two female main characters to tell the tale – one who is strong, arrogant, entitled, manipulative and one who is cautious and caring, and who gains strength as the story progresses.

Not everything is as it seems – so expect a few surprises. This is not simply a young, wealthy tourists kidnapped for ransom horror story. There are hidden truths, power struggles, conflicting agendas, and betrayals of trust at play. And because this is just the first book in a series, not everything will be revealed or wrapped up at the story’s end.

100 HOURS promises to be a quick and enthralling read that will keep you on edge from the very first chapter where it teases what is to come. It delivers all the chills and anticipatory tension that can be hoped for. It drops hints at things that might be amiss. It reveals information from one character’s perspective that the other isn’t aware of. And it switches viewpoints, leaving you hanging for a chapter until the viewpoint switches back.

Readers who love their stories exciting, intense, and climactic from start to finish, that have a bit of a mystery, a touch of romance, a pulse-pounding pace, and characters they can connect with, will not want to miss this first installment in a sure to be outstanding series.

The Rating


About Rachel Vincent

Photo credit: Kim Haynes Photography

Rachel Vincent is a former English teacher and an eager champion of the Oxford comma. She shares her home in Oklahoma with two cats, two teenagers, and her husband, who’s been her # 1 fan from the start. Rachel is older than she looks and younger than she feels, and she remains convinced that writing about the things that scare her is the cheapest form of therapy—but social media is a close second.

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Review: 10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE

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Title: 10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE
Author: Carrie Mac
Release date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 322
Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook

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Description…

Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella’s Finding Audrey and Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, this is the poignant and uplifting story of Maeve, who is dealing with anxiety while falling in love with a girl who is not afraid of anything.
 
Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

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Note: This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.


The Review

10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE is a moving, sweet, heartwarming, funny and somewhat anxious-making read. It introduces a girl whose anxiety disorder has majorly impacted her life, who is trying to cope with some pretty serious stuff, and puts her in a sink or swim situation. It allows readers to experience her apprehension, her tension, her fear. And asks them to sympathize with her even when it’s not so easy to do so.

Maeve can’t stop worrying about every little thing. When she gets anxious – which is practically all the time – she can’t stop her brain from going to dark places, from reciting depressing statistics, from imagining the worst possible outcomes.

At home, with her mother, she’s been trying to gain some control over her disorder. But with her mom leaving for Haiti she’s forced to make some big, unsettling changes – say goodbye to Port Townsend, move in with her less than reliable dad, start a new school, make new friends. All these things are hard enough for anyone to deal with, but for someone whose fears dominate their thoughts, it’s almost impossible.

Add in a tragedy, a huge disappointment, a new romance, and an early arrival, and you have the all the ingredients for an epic disaster.

Author Carrie Mac didn’t take the easy road when creating her character. She gave readers someone very real, who is not always particularly likable. And while Maeve may be relatable to some, her disorder could make it difficult for others to understand and connect with her.

The author also didn’t let her character take the easy road. Maeve has all kinds of challenges thrown at her – ones that should give her some hope if she can manage to face and overcome them.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, as Maeve might want you to believe. 10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE offers up a lovely romance, two charming siblings, a few interesting neighbors, a kingdom of warring gnomes, and possibly more than you’d ever want to know about home births and parents’ significant others. It is an engaging and insightful, at times maddening, at times hilariously cringe-worthy read.

The Rating


About Carrie Mac

Award-winning author Carrie Mac is well-known for her adeptness at captivating young adult audiences; she has written ten books for young adults, and won the 2010 Sheila A. Egoff Book Prize for her previous work, The Gryphon Project. She lives with her family in Vancouver, BC.

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