Monsters on the Run

Finished Monsters on the Run by Kevin Sherry.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Blizz Richards and his band of wacky cryptids are back for another illustrated adventure!

Everyone thinks the Loch Ness monster is one-of-a-kind. But that just means Nessie’s lonely. And only yeti Blizz Richards and his team of cryptozoologists can help her find a friend just like her. With a little help from a time-traveling leprechaun, the gang travels back 65 million years to the age of dinosaurs to begin the search.

But they aren’t ready for the dangers that wait for them: monstrously mean dinos. Giants with razor-sharp teeth. Terrifyingly cute little kitties. Can Blizz keep his team safe, or will they have to sacrifice everything to help Nessie find a friend?”

This book randomly showed up in my house one day, and seemed like a perfect early chapters read (I’m sure there’s a term for this, the books that are probably one step below middlegrade?) for me, the kind of book I would’ve loved when I was little.

Blizz and his friends seem to help out mythical creatures (I haven’t read the first book, but now I want to) and their new project is to help Vanessa (the Loch Ness Monster) find her family.  (ADORABLE RIGHT?)  They find a way to go back in time, because they believe that she must be a dinosaur or dinosaur descendent that didn’t die off when everyone else did.

So now they’re back with the dinosaurs and—as anyone who has ever seen Jurassic Park can tell you—it’s not fun like you’d think.  Nessie gets to find relatives and they’re nice but a lot of the other dinosaurs are mean. Also, hungry.

The best part of the book, though? A shoutout to Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay version of the Loch Ness Monster!

Recommended for new readers.

The Accident Season

Finished The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?”

I was happy to see this book at BEA; I was really intrigued by the concept—an entire family that has catastrophic bad luck for a few weeks?  And this could reveal itself in several different ways.  “Good” accident seasons have nothing worse than bruises and broken bones.  “Bad” accident seasons?  Well, let’s just say the accident season has a body count.

And it’s probably not surprising that there’s a lot more going on with this book than that.  There are family secrets and things that not everyone knows—which I imagine is true in every family.

And while I didn’t love the book the way I expected to, I was completely fascinated the entire time. I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t.  The book felt like a fever dream and I couldn’t even trust my own perceptions.

I liked the characters but didn’t trust any of them.  This is one of those books I’m going to be thinking about for a while.

Trust No One

Finished Trust No One by Paul Cleave.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the exciting new psychological thriller by the Edgar-nominated author of Joe Victim, a famous crime writer struggles to differentiate between his own reality and the frightening plot lines he’s created for the page.

Jerry Grey is known to most of the world by his crime writing pseudonym, Henry Cutter-a name that has been keeping readers at the edge of their seats for more than a decade. Recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of forty-nine, Jerry’s crime writing days are coming to an end. His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders committed by bad men, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia begins to break down the wall between his life and the lives of the characters he has created, Jerry confesses his worst secret: The stories are real. He knows this because he committed the crimes. Those close to him, including the nurses at the care home where he now lives, insist that it is all in his head, that his memory is being toyed with and manipulated by his unfortunate disease. But if that were true, then why are so many bad things happening? Why are people dying?”

First, a disclaimer.  You should know that this book is going to keep you guessing.  I didn’t spend any part of this book 100% convinced of what was going on.

(What an amazing concept, right? The ultimate unreliable narrator.)

I felt horrible for Jerry—he’s clearly a decent guy, but someone who has no idea of what’s going on or how best to handle his suspicions.  It’s also never entirely sure whether he’s correct in those suspicions or if he’s just become incredibly paranoid as a result of his declining mental faculties.

It’s also worth noting that these are not mutually exclusive things: he could easily be both correct in some and paranoid about others.

It was nearly impossible for me to stop reading; I was up until 1 a.m. because I couldn’t sleep until I knew the ending.

Recommended.

Of Dreams and Rust

Finished Of Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

War erupts in this bittersweet sequel to “Of Metal and Wishes”, inspired by The Phantom of the Opera and called “relentlessly engrossing” by The Romantic Times.

In the year since the collapse of the slaughterhouse where Wen worked as her father’s medical assistant, she’s held all her secrets close. She works in the clinic at the weapons factory and sneaks away to nurse Bo, once the Ghost, now a boy determined to transform himself into a living machine. Their strange, fragile friendship soothes some of the ache of missing Melik, the strong-willed Noor who walked away from Wen all those months ago—but it can’t quell her fears for him.

The Noor are waging a rebellion in the west. When she overhears plans to crush Melik’s people with the powerful war machines created at the factory, Wen makes the painful decision to leave behind all she has known—including Bo—to warn them. But the farther she journeys into the warzone, the more confusing things become. A year of brutality seems to have changed Melik, and Wen has a decision to make about him and his people: How much is she willing to sacrifice to save them from complete annihilation?”

I was so obsessed with the first book in this series (Of Metal and Wishes) and I was beyond delighted when this came in my mailbox.

This is a reimagining of the Phantom of the Opera story and with Phantom, I am totally Team Phantom but with this, I love the Raoul character (or Melik, as he’s known here).  But I also love Bo (the Phantom).

And I love Wen, who is a total badass and is willing to put herself at risk to save the people she loves.

Like Of Metal and Wishes, this is amazing. And it made me cry a little bit.

Recommended.

 

George

Finished George by Alex Gino.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.”

This was one of my “must gets” at BEA and it taunted me as I tried to read everything in release order.

I love this new trend of diverse books exploring non-hetero sexuality and transgender people.  I love how these books are educating people in very subtle, non-preachy ways.

George is one of those characters that will stick with you.  She knows she’s a girl, but isn’t sure how to explain it to her best friend or to her mom and brother.  They think she’s a boy, but she has never felt like one.

This book was so hard to read in parts, because the mom is trying so hard to be a good parent and her ways of reassuring George really don’t help.  (She doesn’t know what’s going on, so she tells George, “No matter what, I’ll always love you; you’ll always be my baby boy.”  Which is super sweet, of course, but it also breaks George’s heart because she knows she’s actually not her mom’s baby boy.)

George is such a sweetheart and all I wanted was to make her life easier.  Of course that can’t happen; the world is how it is.  But I love how fiercely she clung to the fact that she was a girl, even though no one else knew or would believe it.

Highly recommended.

 

A Little In Love

Finished A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

As a young child Eponine never knew kindness, except once from her family’s kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girls’ paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they’ve both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive.

I was desperate to read this from the second I heard about it.  I love Les Miserables and Eponine is my favorite character.  (By a LOT.)  So a book that’s all about Eponine? YES PLEASE.

And A Little in Love did not disappoint.  The book takes us from her childhood (shortly before Cosette joins the family) through her time on the barricade and gives us a better picture of Eponine.  (Because let’s face it, we don’t see that much of her in the play or movie musical of Les Miserables, and that was much bigger than her part in the book.)

I first saw Les Miserables when I was little, probably eight or nine.  And while I have always been Team Eponine, it took me a few viewings to get just how bad her parents were.  I thought their song was super funny (and most things in that play are not only unfunny, they will actively break your heart) and so it wasn’t until I was older that I was like, “Wait, they’re not only robbing their guests at the inn, but they’re stealing from DEAD PEOPLE? And almost dead people?”  Poor Eponine never had a chance, guys.  :(  And her parents in this aren’t at all funny.  They’re straight up vicious.

Eponine’s ending hasn’t changed but there’s a lot about her story that has.  So even if you’re not a huge fan of hers (and honestly, I judge you a little if you’re Team Cosette), check this one out.  It’s awesome.

Recommended.

Honor Girl

Finished Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.

This is my favorite graphic novel, by a lot.  I know that seems like damning with faint praise because, as you know, I am not a fan of graphic novels.  But even if I were, I think this would be my favorite anyway.

My ARC has the drawings in black and white; the final book will be in color.  The drawings were stunning already and I can’t even imagine how pretty they’ll be in color.

But what’s even better is the story itself.  I never went to summer camp, but this made me feel like I was there.  And of course I do understand how it feels to fall in love with a girl.

Maggie is pretty stunned—she’d never thought about girls that way before.  So is she a lesbian or is she just in love with Erin?

This is a sweet story and a realistic one.  I’m excited to see more from Maggie Thrash.

Recommended.

Becoming Maria

Finished Becoming Maria by Sonia Manzano.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Pura Belpré Honor winner for The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano and one of America’s most influential Hispanics–Maria on Sesame Street–delivers a beautifully wrought coming-of-age memoir.

Set in the 1970s in the Bronx, this is the story of a girl with a dream. Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is loving–and troubled. This is Sonia’s own story rendered with an unforgettable narrative power. When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead. But–click!–when the TV goes off, Sonia is taken back to real life–the cramped, colorful world of her neighborhood and an alcoholic father. But it is Sonia’s dream of becoming an actress that keeps her afloat among the turbulence of her life and times.

Spiced with culture, heartache, and humor, this memoir paints a lasting portrait of a girl’s resilience as she grows up to become an inspiration to millions.”

This is a fascinating memoir but you should be aware that it stops as she’s auditioning for Sesame Street.  (I hope there will be a followup memoir!)

This is also told in a series of vignettes beginning when she’s a child and ending when she’s about to start Sesame Street (as we know, but she doesn’t).

Sonia Manzano’s writing is amazing, though.  Even with a few words, it’s possible to picture everything she’s talking about.  It’s something I admire a great deal.

If you’ve been curious about the woman behind Maria, this is for you.  (And now that she’s retired from Sesame Street, I very much enjoyed reading this.  And again, followup, please!)

Recommended.

The Boy Most Likely To

Finished The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Surprises abound and sparks ignite in the highly anticipated, utterly romantic companion to My Life Next Door

Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To:
– find the liquor cabinet blindfolded
– need a liver transplant
– drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To:
– well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.

Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have.

And Alice is caught in the middle.

Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this return to the world of My Life Next Door is a story about failing first, trying again, and having to decide whether to risk it all once more.”

After reading My Life Next Door, I was so excited to dive immediately back into the world of the Garretts.  This time, it’s about Jase’s older sister Alice and her relationship with Tim (who we know from My Life Next Door; he’s Samantha’s best friend’s brother).  I didn’t really like Tim from the first book; I absolutely fell in love with him here. And I want to marry Alice.

Like My Life Next Door, this book is a great love story but the better story here is Tim trying so hard to reinvent himself and to be better than he’s been in the past. It’s easy to say that it’s because of Alice (and I’m sure that’s part of it) but it has more to do with the fact that he wants to wants to be better for his own sake, too.

(I’m hoping the next Garrett book will be a middlegrade from George’s point of view.  I think that book would be absolute perfection.)

Highly recommended.

My Life Next Door

Finished My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.”

This is my very first Huntley Fitzpatrick novel and, for someone who is completely obsessed with contemp YA, that’s an embarrassing thing to admit.

I’d heard her books were excellent, and they seemed like something I’d really love, but I still kept putting them off.

And then I read this one and just completely fell in book smit.  It was everything I had been told and more.

My Life Next Door is sweet, but there’s so much going on there.  It’s a love story, yes, but also about family (and the fact that the family you choose can be better than the family you have) and it’s just amazing.

I love Samantha and the way that she’s so fascinated with this loud family next door, even though her mom is so completely snobby about them.  And I love the loud family next door (seriously, can they adopt me? Because they already have a lot of people and I do earn money) even though in general, I dislike loud.

It’s just perfect.  If, like me, you’ve been avoiding her books, change that.  NOW.

Highly recommended.