Fantasy · Fiction · Young Adult

The Belles

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Title: The Belles

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Performer: Rosie Jones

Length: 13 hr, 2 min, 45 sec

Series: The Belles, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Blackstone Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: This book knocked my socks off.  I have been eyeing it for some time due to the beautiful cover art, but kept passing it over in favor of other fantasy novels.  That was my mistake, because this book blew me away with it’s originality and spectacular character development.  Camellia is not by any means a perfect heroine, and this makes her all the more relatable.  The antagonist of the story made my skin crawl, and was a total psychopath. This made for a very interesting story chock full of political intrigue, manipulation, and mystery.

What I find truly fascinating about this book, and what really sets it apart in my mind, is the author’s commentary on beauty through the story.  Beauty standards are fickle and ever changing in today’s world, and it is no different here.  All over the world people are obsessed with achieving impossible standards of beauty, and are never satisfied because beauty is perceived differently by everyone.  This is reflected in the world Clayton has created, where physical appearance can be changed in a matter of minutes, but at great personal and financial cost.  People are constantly changing their appearance to match changing beauty trends and endure a great deal of physical pain to make it happen.  The parallels this draws to real life make this a wholly believable story despite its fantastical elements.

I deducted a half star from my rating because there were a couple things that I did not feel were fully explained, but these minor plot hiccups may very well be ironed out in the second book in the series.  I have already requested it from the library and look forward to listening to it.

The performer for this story was perfection.  She easily ranks as one of my top favorite readers after listening to this performance.  I can’t wait to hear her in other works.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

We Set the Dark on Fire

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Title: We Set the Dark on Fire

Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia

Page Count: 384

Series: We Set the Dark on Fire, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: February 26, 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books

Format: Hardcover

Review: I enjoyed this book and I can see a lot of potential in this series.  This book was mainly setting the stage and the characters for the overarching storyline, so it doesn’t feel like a lot happens, but it is clear that there is a lot more action yet to come.

This book draws a lot of interesting parallels with current events, and I thought that the mythology aspect was very expertly woven into the threads of the story.  The author did an excellent job establishing the conflict, and I am excited to see where the story goes from here.  Also worthy of note is that all the characters are Latinx and there is an LGBT romance that is central to the story.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Memoir · Non-fiction · Young Adult

Shout

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Title: Shout

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Page Count: 304

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: March 12, 2019 by Penguin Young Readers Group

Format: Hardcover

Review: Laurie Halse Anderson has been a powerhouse in the realm of Young Adult Fiction, so it was interesting to learn a little bit more about her through this poetry memoir.  I like the format in verse because I think it will make the book seem less daunting to reluctant readers.  I was able to breeze through it in a couple hours, and despite it’s brevity, there is still a lot to unpack.

I think this is an important book because it reveals the gap in education regarding consent, and really just sex in general.  Because sex is still such a taboo topic, society is failing to educate youth about their own bodies and the importance of respecting others.

One of the most tragic aspects of sexual abuse/assault is that the victims often do not fully understand what has happened/is happening to them.  They push down their shame and internalize their trauma, which often manifests itself in destructive ways.  Because of this, it is so important that we talk through these issues with our youth, and let them know that it is ok to speak out if someone is doing something that doesn’t feel right.

I personally think this should be required reading in middle schools, because it is important to start this conversation early.  It is not graphic, but it absolutely gets it’s point across, which I think makes it appropriate for both middle school and high school students.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fantasy · Fiction · Young Adult

Sherwood

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Title: Sherwood

Author: Megan Spooner

Page Count: 480

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: March 19, 2019 by HarperTeen

Format: eBook

Review: Well I am embarrassed to say that I did not finish this book before my Advanced Reader Copy expired (I should have been paying more attention to the publication date).

That said, I did admittedly drag my feet in finishing this book.  I can generally finish a book in under a week, and yet I have been reading this one for over a month.  Why?  Mostly because I was not a fan of the pacing.  I absolutely love the Robin Hood story, and I thought this was a unique premise for an adaptation.  Girl power!  It was, however, underwhelming.  I was expecting far more action than was actually delivered (at least not in the first 70% of the book; that’s about as far as I made it before the title expired).  I also found it completely perplexing that it took so long for any other characters to actually catch onto the fact that Marian was masquerading as Robin.  The author very clearly tried to make the “villain” of the story multidimensional with backstory, but he still seemed like a complete dope for falling for Marian’s lame excuses and poorly created masquerade.

I really don’t know how the author is going to end the story, but quite frankly I probably won’t be rushing to find out.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fiction · Young Adult

On the Come Up

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Title: On the Come Up

Author: Angie Thomas

Page Count: 464

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: February 5, 2019 by Balzer + Bray

Format: Hardcover

Review: This is an exceptionally well-written coming-of-age story about staying true to yourself and following your dreams.  What I really loved about it is that Thomas was able to touch upon a lot of hot topics without this book feeling like it was issue fiction.  A Blade So Black touched upon a lot of the same issues, but as I noted in my review, I did not like that the controversial topics were laid out in a very one dimensional fashion.  Angie Thomas managed to avoid this pitfall by exploring the issues from many different angles.  I think this is a very socially responsible approach, and gives the story more power with a wider audience.  I, for example, grew up with very different challenges than the main character, Bri, and though I do not agree with all of her choices and opinions, I can completely understand how her life experiences have shaped her perspective on and reaction to the events that take place in the story.  I think this speaks volumes about Thomas’ skill as a writer, and it makes me very excited about whatever projects she may have coming up in the (hopefully) near future.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Romance · Young Adult

We’ll Always Have Summer

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Title: We’ll Always Have Summer

Author: Jenny Han

Performer: Jessica Almasy

Length: 6 hr, 45 min

Series: Summer, Book 3

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Recorded Books

Format: eAudiobook

Review: I wasn’t particularly surprised by the ending of this book, but the author really does make you wait until the epilogue to know which brother Belly ends up with.  I felt Belly’s anguish was very relatable throughout the final book, and it is a relief to know that she ends up happy despite it all.

My feelings regarding Conrad and Jeremiah are mixed.  Both characters are deeply flawed, and it was difficult for me to determine Conrad’s motivators in particular.  His love for Belly did not feel very authentic to me, even after I was given insight into his feelings.

To be perfectly honest, I was not as invested in this book as I was in the two that precede it.  I had a very strong suspicion about how it would all play out, and I was pretty much on the mark.  I’m glad that I finished the trilogy though and I would very much consider reading other books written by this author.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

It’s Not Summer Without You

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Title: It’s Not Summer Without You

Author: Jenny Han

Performer: Jessica Almasy

Length: 6 hr, 45 min

Series: Summer, Book 2

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Recorded Books

Format: eAudiobook

Review: I was not quite as enamored with this book as I was with the first one, but it was still a great read.  Han captures the feelings of grief, angst, heartbreak, regret, and guilt so so well.  As with many trilogies, the second book hits the peak of conflict, so there really is no resolution at the end.  I imagine the feelings of resolution will come in the third and final book, and I am really hoping that Belly chooses the brother that I feel is better suited for her.

I certainly experienced some feelings of frustration while reading this book.  The characters are so young and impulsive that sometimes I just wanted to shake the selfishness right out of them.  I think though that Han’s depiction of how the characters react to tragedy is realistic.  It is hard to know exactly how you will cope with something until it happens to you, and sometimes in our hurt we push away the people that matter most and make rash decisions.

That said, I am really looking forward to the final book!

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star