Young Adult

The Turtle Pirates: Beneath the Sunrise by Ben Swiercz

The Turtle Pirates: Beneath the Sunrise by Ben Swiercz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When my sister-in-law told me about a new middle grade book that was just published by a friend, I was excited to read it and see what it was about. Having read quite a few long, heavy novels recently, I could use some reprieve with a lighthearted middle grade tale.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Turtle Pirates: Beneath the Sunrise. It is the tale of a young girl spending the summer at her grandpa’s house on the lake when she stumbles upon the story of a pirate that used to inhabit the area. Her and her friends go on an adventure to find the secrets the pirate left behind.

Some of the things I really enjoyed:
1. Loved the character development of the girl, Evey, and her friend Archer. Evey has a speech disorder and I found her dialogue endearing. I think it’s refreshing when an author creates a character that endures some form of adversity, particularly in the middle grade genre. I found Archer to be hysterical and his rambling put a smile on my face.
2. The undertones of bullying and standing up to bullies were well placed and, again, important messages for middle grade that I felt the author tackled really well.
3. There was a fair bit of education for the younger generation on reading maps, solving problems, the basics of sailing a boat, etc. that were good thought-provokers for those who have never been introduced to those skills.
4. Although I was waiting to learn more about the secrets of the pirate, I appreciated the way the author left the story on a cliffhanger. I guess I’ll just have to wait for The Turtle Pirates 2: Blacksmith Mansion!

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Romance, Young Adult

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well y’all. I just joined a new book club in Nashville that I’m super excited about it. I’ve been trying out different book clubs in the area and nothing has really “fit” up to this point. But, a fellow Nashvillian told me about this book club and I decided to give it a try. I found out about it on Monday and my first meeting was Wednesday. The book…. Everything, Everything.

I don’t know if you know this…. but I read a lot. And even I was a little worried about getting the book read by Wednesday so I could be part of the discussion. But Everything, Everything is such a quick read that I finished it in a matter of 24 hours.

From the Publisher:

What if you couldn’t touch anything in the outside world? Never breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun warm your face . . . or kiss the boy next door? In Everything, Everything, Maddy is a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly is the boy who moves in next door . . . and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken.

My absolute favorite thing about the book? The format. Super short chapters + varying format + illustrations. Short chapters are always a winner for me. I find books with short chapters difficult to put down because I’m always convincing myself that I can read just one more…. one more… one more…

The format was so interesting and perfect for this story. Nicola Yoon wrote in standard paragraph format for much of the novel but also used email, instant messaging, Maddy’s short book reviews, Maddy-approved definitions, and written schedules of those she observed to paint an overall picture of Maddy’s life. It somehow made the book feel so authentic and realistic because I could imagine an 18 year old girl who had been cooped up in a house her entire life trying to express herself through the different channels she had available to her.

Finally, the illustrations. What’s funny here is that I usually tend to listen to library books on audio but I decided to read this one in print. I’m so happy that I did because the illustrations were perfectly placed and executed (and drawn by the author’s husband), and I thought they enhanced the content of the book. One of the women I interacted with at book club listened to the audio and had no idea there were illustrations in the book. She didn’t feel like not having illustrations took anything away from the book, but I would still recommend reading versus listening to this one.

Beyond the formatting, the story was just heartwarming and cute. It definitely oozes young adult with the two main characters trying to discover who they really are as individuals as well as together. And there are a few surprises along the way that I didn’t see coming. Definitely a lot of content to unpack in a book club format and made for good discussion.

Overall, this was a really strong and powerful book. I thought it was thoroughly unique and I enjoyed reading it. Now I will have to go watch the movie to compare!

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a SecretTwo Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Karen M. McManus’s first book, One of Us is Lying, many months ago and absolutely adored it. I generally like the YA mystery genre and McManus has a great way of putting you right back in high school with her stories.

So when I found out she was writing a second book, I immediately told myself I had to read it. Which brings me to Two Can Keep a Secret. While I loved the concept of this book (missing high school homecoming princesses and murder in a small town), I struggled a bit overall. Here are my thoughts…

Things I loved:
1. The way McManus incorporates that nostalgic high school feeling into her books. The characters definitely have a YA, junior essence in both their actions and their dialogue.
2. The ending. I definitely did not see the ending coming and love when I’m caught off guard with a really great twist. This book had it. The twist was fantastic and unexpected… and the last line of the book will leave you with chills up your spine.

Things I didn’t love:
1. There were too many characters and none of them were that well developed. I felt like I was reading a bunch of names and trying to remember who was which character. The cast definitely could have benefited from some more distinguishing characteristics that would help to better differentiate them from each other. And while I understand that the more characters are in the story, the more red herrings there are to throw the reader off track, I did feel like there were maybe too many characters in general.
2. The story wasn’t all that unique. As I’ve said before, the mystery genre is so saturated that authors have to get more and more creative to stand out. While I loved the ending, the road to get there was at times kind of slow and didn’t keep my attention the whole time. There were times that I found myself just wanting the story to get somewhere quicker because I was losing interest.
3. I listened to the audiobook and the narrators were not my favorite.

Overall, this one was just okay for me. In my opinion, it wasn’t as strong as One of Us is Lying, which I really enjoyed. I feel “meh” about it.

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Fantasy, Young Adult

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Out April 2nd! Preorder from Amazon here.

Game of Thrones meets Children of Blood and Bone in this action-packed YA fantasy novel. Nadya is a girl of the gods. Her country is at war with Tranavia, a land that loathes the gods and relies on blood magic for power. The two countries will come crashing together when the prince of Tranavia infiltrates Nadya’s home, setting in motion a chain of events that neither country saw coming.

I always love a good fantasy novel, and this was no exception. The originality here by Emily A. Duncan shone through, going so far as to create new languages and concepts specific to this world. I really liked Nadya as a main character and related to the internal struggles she grappled with throughout the book, not knowing whether she should have faith in her gods or realign her actions with what she felt was right regardless of the gods’ will.

I struggled slightly in the beginning of the book to grasp what was going on, just because this is an entirely new world that the author creates, so it took some time to gain enough understanding of the two countries and their motivations. But once I got 20 – 30% of the way through, I was fully on board. The names of some of the characters were a tad difficult to pronounce as they were long and foreign, with many consonants together that we wouldn’t typically see in English. I would be very interested to listen to this one on audio just to hear how the narrator pronounces some of the names and words that were new to me.

Overall, would recommend this to most people that enjoy the fantasy genre. Like I said, it was reminiscent of Game of Thrones in that there are multiple kingdoms fighting for ultimate power, with lots of magical elements thrown in the mix. It was a fun read, and I’m excited to see what the next book in the series holds.

P.S. The author does leave you on quite a bit of a cliffhanger in the end, so don’t be disappointed when everything isn’t wrapped up nicely with a bow on top by the last page.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Emily A. Duncan, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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Science Fiction, Young Adult

Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

Girls with Sharp SticksGirls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

What do I say about this book other than that I loved it? Well here’s my best shot!

Girls with Sharp Sticks is a young adult book focused on the lives of several girls living in an elite boarding school. They are taught to uphold the highest standards of behavior and grace, striving for perfection in all things. But things aren’t what they seem to be at Innovations Academy. And the girls must band together to discover the truth.

I truly don’t want to give anything away with this book because it’s a great journey of discovery from start to finish as the story unravels. I adored the girls at Innovations Academy. Despite the pressure to be perfect, they all exhibited their own human elements that made them likable and relatable.

The only reason it didn’t receive 5 stars from me is that it seemed just a tad too long. There were a few points in the middle where I felt like there was a lull or I felt like the story was dragged out just a littleeeeee too much. Just a tiny bit of editing would have gone a long way for me here.

I had no idea when I started this book that it would be the first in a series. And now I cannot wait to read the sequel. The last 100 pages really hooked me, and the book ended on a wonderful cliffhanger that will keep any reader coming back to find out what happens next. I also adored the way Suzanne Young announced the name of the sequel at the end of the book (super clever touch!).

Girls with Sharp Sticks reminded me of a cross between Vox and The Hunger Games/The Maze Runner. It had that same young adult feel with a mistreated group organizing an uprising against their oppressors. After I was done reading Girls with Sharp Sticks, I could see the way in which the author used this first book in the series to set up future books. It was definitely more of a background set up type of book so I cannot wait to see what the second book holds as I think it may be more action packed now that the groundwork has been laid.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Suzanne Young, and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to review.-

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