Friday, June 24, 2016

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love, by Sarvenaz Tash

Confession Time: I am a geek. 

So with a title like The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love, how could the newest novel by Sarvernaz Tash NOT be awesome?

And if the title alone didn't have me convinced: When I opened the book at random and my eyes fell on the words #InigoMontoyaSmackdown... Well... OK, so I read a book based solely on a Princess Bride reference. And not only a Princess Bride reference, but a reference to my favorite character from The Princess Bride (side note: If you have not yet seen The Princess Bride, get thee immediately to the movie section and rent it). 

That and a patron with, shall we say, "very discriminating taste in Teen Literature" was absolutely raving to me about it.

Needless to say, there was A LOT of expectation riding on this quirky-looking little book. Usually when that's the case, I end up extraordinarily disappointed. It's like when you're eyeing that huge, beautifully-wrapped present that's been under the Xmas tree for weeks, speculating on what sort of coolness could be inside (a computer? a time machine? one million dollars?)...aaaand having it turn out to be a year's worth of socks (or something). The mental buildup is such that, no matter what, the reality will be a tremendous let down.

Let me state that THIS WAS NOT THE CASE with The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love. This book wasn't just as good as I hoped.

It was better!

Let me explain:

No... There is too much...

Let me sum up:

Graham, a self-proclaimed geek, has been harboring a secret crush on his best friend (and fellow geek), Roxy, for years. The two do everything together. They share a love of old-school comics...and even write and illustrate their own comic, The Misfits of Mage High. They even sometimes finish each other's sentences and think of the same things at the same time. So it should be easy to transition from friendship into relationship. But for some reason Graham hasn't been able to find the courage to tell Roxy how he feels. And Roxy remains oblivious.

Then comes the perfect plan: Robert Zinc, the creater of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, will be making his first public appearance in years at the upcoming Comic Con in NYC. Graham plans snag the coveted passes to this special, once-in-a-timelord-lifetime panel and take Roxy. Here, he will profess his undying love. And, of course, Roxy will realize she loves him right back. And they will live happily ever after. It'll be like Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey. Like Wesley and Buttercup. Like North and Althena. With a plan like this, what could go wrong?


A snafu at the ticket area where Graham failes to get the passes to see Zinc starts the weekend off on a bad note. And things get worse from there. Namely in the form of a British "Stud Crumpet" vying for Roxy's affections. Add in a neurotic best friend, a popular girl a little too interested in geek culture, and a flirty Althena fan who actually got into the special panel (jealousy!!) and Graham is in for an unforgettable weekend.

Things just may not pan out as he expected.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love was fabulous! Packed with painfully awkward (but hilarious) situations, references to all forms of geekdom (from comics to movies to fanfiction), and unforgettable characters, this one is a winner on all counts. I loved it, loved it, loved it!

The only problem is anything I read afterward will be anticlcimactic. But that's not going to stop me from recommending it. So read it! --AJB

Thursday, June 23, 2016

With Malice, by Eileen Cook

Jill wakes up in the hospital suffering from a broken leg and severe head trauma that's caused her to completely forget the past six weeks of her life. She doesn't remember her trip to Italy or the accident that caused her injuries and killed her best friend, Simone. She soon learns that the accident has made national headlines and that there is a investigation into what really happened (however, Simone's family and most everyone else thinks Jill is to blame). Some sources say it wasn't even an accident, but murder.

News reports, police interviews, blog posts, and communications between the girls and their families/friends before and after the "accident" attempt to piece together the story, but only Jill knows the whole truth of what really happened. 

And Jill can't remember any of it.

Or can she?

When I first heard about Eileen Cook's novel With Malice, it was billed as being a mystery worthy of We Were Liars (E. Lockhart), a book I couldn't put down and raved about to just about anyone who would listen. Needless to say, I was super excited to read it.

By now, I should know better than to listen to hype and comparisons to favorite books. About the only thing the two books shared was a wealthy main character with amnesia. With Malace held none of the magic and mystery and romance of We Were Liars. Instead, there was just lots and lots of catty mean girl drama with mystery and thriller elements mixed in for flavor (although by the end, I was so fed up with all the Drama I could have cared less what happened to the characters). The way Jill finally regains her memory feels almost too almost convenient, and ending is too neatly wrapped-up.

If you're looking for a good mystery, there are better options. --AJB

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lucky Few, by Kathryn Ormsbee

The first time Stevie encounters Max, he's lying in the neighbor's yard in a pool of (fake) blood. The second time the two bump into each other, Max is (fake) drowning in a local lake. Each time max is in peril, Stevie comes to his rescue. And each time she discovers Max's almost-deaths are nothing more than cleaverly-orchestrated acting. How frustrating!

With a meet-cute like this, how can it NOT be true love?

Stevie soon learns that Max recentely had a near-death experience and lived to tell about it. Ever since then, he's bound and determined to thumb his nose at Death by faking his death in as many ways as possible without... well, without actually dying. Stevie, along with her equally-quirky BFF Sanger, agrees to help Max complete his list, some of which are pretty bizarre (spontaneous combustion, anyone?).

What follows is a morbidly hilarious adventure, as the trio of teens cement their friendship over angry (and possibly rabid) peacock attacks, hypothermia, and deadly allergic reactions. 

But as Max's two-month deadline to complete the list approaches, some very serious truths come to the surface. And Stevie realizes that there are things even more important than (fake) death. Like friendship, love, and life.

Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee is the perfect blend of quirky humor, serious life situations, and sweet romance. The characters were well-rounded, likable (but not without faults), and learns (tough) lessons that help them become a better person when everything is said and done. Another thing I liked: The ending wasn't one of those Happily Ever After types that's all wrapped up and tied with a big shiny ribbon. There are things that don't work out. There are loose ends. There are realizations that sometimes you can't erase certain things. But the ending is still satisfying.

I absolutely recommend this one! --AJB

Friday, June 17, 2016

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, by Lindsay Ribar

For hundreds of years, the Quick family has been protecting Three Peaks, located in the shadow of The Cliff, from the terrible landslide that would most certainly kill everyone in town. They do this by reaching into the town's citizens and stealing memories, talents, afflictions, and other random things. Whenever someone begins to question the morality of what they do, family matriarch Grandma Willow reminds them of the deadly consequences of what happens if they stop stealing to repair the cliff.

If the cliff falls... everyone, everyone in town will die.

The summer he is 17, Aspen Quick comes to stay with Grandma Willow and Aunt Holly. Because of his unusually strong talent for Reaching, he is pulled into the ritual of repairing the cliff. Like anything, there are rules: You don't steal from family, You don't tell anyone about Reaching (or the ritual, or the cliff), and You don't talk about Cousin Heather. 

Like anyone blessed/cursed with such unusual magical abilitles, Aspen occasionally abuses this power. He causes the girl he's got a crush on to stop loving her boyfriend. He steals a friend's sobriety at a party. He takes away the fears and hopes and negative memories of people he's close to, usually to benefit himself. He doesn't think about the consequences of his actions (he doesn't think there are consequences). Besides, he never takes away anthing that would be missed or anything so big others would notice and start gossiping. Basically, Aspen is a selfish, manipulative jerk.

Enter Leah, the one person Aspen can't steal from (and he's tried) and the one person outside his family who knows what's going on. In talking with this girl, he begins to learn the awful truth about what his family does and that it may not be so harmless after all. Once he knows the truth, Aspen vows to set things right...or at least stop the family tradition of Reaching before further harm is done to the people of Three Peaks. 

But this may be easier said than done.

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by author Lindsay Ribar is every bit as awesome and intriguing as the title suggests. Aspen is a complex character who undergoes a lot of personal growth throughout the story. The plot is suspenseful, creepy. and the many twists and turns keep the reader guessing until the Big Reveal at the end.

A definite Must Read!--AJB

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick

11891486He had his whole high school career planned out- it's pretty easy when you're a star athlete. Peter was going to finish up eighth grade and head into ninth as an all- star. As lead pitcher for your baseball team and a partner in crime as your catcher what could go wrong? During a baseball game Peter feels something happen in his elbow. Being the determined athlete he is, he ignores it and continues the game. He winds up, throws hard, and then with a snapping sound he blacks out. With that curveball, everything in Peter's life changes.

After needing surgery on his elbow Peter is out of commission and out of luck. He starts high school off with a gray cloud over his head and not a baseball in sight. Things seemingly get worse when his grandfather hands him thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment and seems to be "losing it". With the help of a new friend, Peter is able to make it through his first year of high school and some major changes in his life.

Curveball was a great quick and inspirational read. Sonnenblick did a fantastic job at mixing in real life situations, but still keeping his readers entertained. Along with the storyline, the characters are likeable and readers can easily relate to them. (I mean who doesn't have that friend that just doesn't take a hint?) Through both his own struggles and his family's readers learn to love Peter and on occasion commit a good ol' forehead slap on his behalf. After reading Curveball I was quick to pick up another book by Sonnenblick. I think this would be true of most readers. His realistic fiction books are great for readers moving from middle school into high school. If your a sports fan- there's enough action to keep you interested. If you're not (like me) there is not too much to scare you away.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Nil, by Lynne Matson

The premise of Lynne Matson's NIL sounded really interesting. Sort of a rip-off of the TV show Lost, but interesting just the same: You wake up on a mysterious and beautiful island, transported there (seemingly) randomly by a "gate", and have one year to catch an outbound "gate" home. Otherwise you die. Catching a gate isn't as easy as it sounds, because they only come once a day...and they appear (seemingly) at random around the island. And there are other people besides you hunting for gates. Plus, the island offers up its own perils (Lions and tigers and bears-oh my!-and wolves and hyenas and wild boars) that can do you in even before your original 365-day exparation date.

This is what 17-year-old Charley is faced with when she blacks out in the Target parking lot and wakes up on the island of NIL

I thought: Sweet! If I have to read a Dystopian, at least I can read something that sounds interesting instead of one of the many a wanna-be-the-next-Hunger Games that fill our shelves. NIL sounded like it would fit the bill nicely (besides, I was totally a fan of Lost back in the day).

Unfortunately, NIL didn't really get good until the last 1/4 of the book. Before that, there was a lot of romance based purely on insta-love. And it wasn't even the exciting sort of romance. The characters faced dangers, yes, but they seemed like things mentioned in passing. Even the ticking clock looming over everyone's head never seemed particularly threatening. Mainly, NIL was one big beach party where characters feasted on fish and tropical fruit, wore leis made from island flowers, and struck up (doomed) relationships with other islanders. Sure, characters died. Sure, they whined and speculated about how to get home. But it was all one big "whatever." I never really got fully invested in the story the way I wanted to.

But it kept me reading. Mainly because I was determined to finish the book. And when NIL finally did get good, it went quickly and I sped through the remaining chapters (the 'after NIL' bit did drag somwhat). A lot of questions were still left unanswered, however. I assume those issues will be addressed in the follow-up books. In the end, I did like NIL. But not enough to read the rest of the trilogy. --AJB

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Boys of Summer, by Jessica Brody

Boys of Summer by Jessica Brody, is a nice contemporary story with a bittersweet ending. The story is told from the perspective of three guys, Grayson, Mike and Ian. Boys of Summer is a book that follows these boys through a summer on an island where secrets and emotions get in the way of their friendship. It's the summer between high school graduation and the start of their new lives.

Mike, Ian, and Grayson have been friends since they were children and have always spent the summers together on an island. However, this summer each boy is dealing with their inner turmoil. Ian just lost his father, Mike has to help his family pay the bills by taking on two jobs, and Grayson is hiding an injury that can ruin his entire future. We follow each boy this summer as they deal with each problem. Their lives are still connected in some way before going out into the unknown and leading separate lives.

I think it's a bittersweet story because of how realistic the story is and when the summer comes to a close, the boys are still figuring things out, but at eighteen, they still have their entire future ahead of them. *JK*

Friday, June 3, 2016

Down With the Shine, by Kate Karyus Quinn

Be careful what you wish for.

Lennie Cash has always been kind of infamous around town. That's what happens when your father is on the FBI's Most Wanted List. So when Lennie's best friend disappears and turns up dead, well... Let's just say that most people suspect that Lennie may have had a hand in what happened to Dylan. Even if that's not the truth. Hoping to fulfill an item on Dyl's bucket list, Lennie attends Queen Bee Michalea Gordon's annual party. And with her she brings some of her uncles' moonshine. As moonshine tradition dictates, Lennie urges each drinker to make a wish and then have a toast, "May all your wishes come true, or at least this one."

Then something strange happens: The next day, those wishes DO come true. Unknown to Lennie, the uncles' moonshine isn't just any old ordinary moonshine. It's magical and has the power to grant a single wish to each drinker. Unfortunately, the shine interprets the wishes in the most literal sense possible. And, in most cases, that's a bad thing.

That being the case, what does it mean for Lennie's wish for Dylan to be alive again?

Down With the Shine is an odd book for author Kate Karys QuinnCharacters aren't always likable, but they're well-developed. The suspenseful plot is slightly reminicent of The Monkey's Paw (it will definitely make you re-think what you do next time you are urged to "make a wish"). Mature topics and scenarios may not make this book the best selection for younger teens and tweens. However, it's a great choice for someone looking for something unique. --AJB

Dreamology, by Lucy Keating

Max is the boy of Alice's dreams. Literally. Ever since her father took her to the Center for Dream Discovery (CDD) to help rid her of her nightmares, she's been dreaming about Max. Each night, they eat Oreo pizzas in museums while wearing black tie attire, ride pink elephants along the Great Wall of China, bounce on clouds amid technicolor hot air balloons, and have many a trippy nighttime adventure. Then Alice moves from New York to Boston and... SURPRISE! Who should show up in her class but Max. In the waking-world flesh. After some awkward encounters where Max swears he doesn't know Alice, he finally admits he remembers his dreams of her as well. Unfortunately for the Dream Couple, Max has a girlfriend who is supernice and is becoming friends with Alice. And class clown Oliver (Max's former BFF) is interested in Alice as more than just a friend. So Max and Alice must keep their attraction a secret. But of course secrets like this don't stay secrets for long. What follows is a hot mess of Drama.

And if you think that sounds convoluted, just wait: 

As their waking and dreaming worlds begin to blend together in some very odd ways (bulldogs riding motorcycles, anyone?), Max and Alice realize they're in danger of losing their sanity. They track down Dr. Petermann, the scientist who worked the CDD when they were patients there, and he referrs them to Professor Yang, another (former) CDD scientist...just as he is arrested for illegal parrot smuggling. 

Soon Max and Alice, along with Oliver and Alice's NYC BFF Sophie, are road tripping from Boston to Maine to track down Dr. Yang, who is apparently the one responsible for their condition. But will she be able to stop Max ans Alice's dreams before they permanently lose their grip on reality? 

To find out, you'll have to read!

Dreamology, the debut novel for author Lucy Keating, was a quick and fun read I breezed through in less than 48 hours (I took several breaks in between sessions). Unfortunately, it wasn't very deep. The romance lacked chemistry, characters lacked dimension, and the dream sequences seemed forced-weird (and were so frequent that they actually kind of took away from the story). Overall, Dreamology was a decent first book effort for Keating. But as is with most dreams upon waking, it isn't particularly memorable. --AJB

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Great Falls by Steve Watkins

Shane's older brother, Jeremy, has done three tours as a Marine.  On his last one, he saved a life and earned a Purple Heart.  His helmet cam caught it all and the video made it to YouTube.  Now, everyone in town just sees Jeremy as a hero, including his step dad, but he's living in the family basement, not at home with his wife and kids, and he carries his gun with him everywhere.  He doesn't like crowded areas and he drinks a lot.  Shane is worried about him and because Jeremy has always been there for him, he is determined to be there for his brother.  He covers for him.  He helps with his wife and kids.  He defends him.
When Shane has the worst football game of his life, he is relieved to see his brother waiting for him in his truck.  Jeremy claims that he just wants to go up to the hunting cabin they used to go to, just get away for a while, and Shane goes along with it.  That's just the first step in a crazy journey.  It is almost immediately apparent that the trip was a bad idea.  Soon they're renting a canoe and buying camping gear and heading down the river.  Shane just isn't sure if they are running away from something or toward something.
However, I did have some problems with it.  Shane is so passive.  It's understandable because Jeremy is the older brother who has always taken care of him and because his step father runs a tight ship. It felt like Jeremy was making bad decisions that were obviously bad.  I know that it was a way of showing Shane's devotion to his brother but I wanted to shake him.  
It was exciting, fast paced, and well written.  -RYQ