The Third Twin

Finished The Third Twin by CJ Omololu.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Identical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liars meets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist.

When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything. The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.

Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect: Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist. As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer…or Alicia is real.”

The Third Twin was just really fun.  I read it in one sitting, unable to put it down and trying to figure out exactly what was going on and whether it was possible that Lexi was crazy or an otherwise unreliable narrator.

I did guess part of the end reveal (there are enough twists and turns that I feel confident in saying that it’s very unlikely someone will correctly be able to guess everything) but that didn’t affect my enjoyment at all.

Highly recommended—and now I want to read her entire backlist.

The Year of the Book

Finished The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated. When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world. Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’ One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.

It’s not a huge surprise that I love books about books, and this is a really sweet one.

Anna has a hard time fitting in, probably because she prefers to spend her time with books than with actual people.  The books she loves help her to make sense of the world, and they always manage to make her feel better about her life.

Except the problem with books is that they can’t really be her friends.  And they can’t help her figure out how to actually talk to people.  Or to understand why her mom insists that she (a) accompany her to work on the weekends and (b) go to Chinese school.

I hope someone comes up with a reading challenge based on the books that Anna reads.  (I’ve read some, but not all and they sound really good.)

I was also excited to learn that this is the first book in a series.  I can’t get to the other books yet, but I definitely want to revisit Anna and her family soon.

Recommended.

A Work of Art

Finished A Work of Art by Melody Maysonet.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Shy, artistic Tera can’t wait to attend a prestigious art school in France to prove to her famous artist father that she can make something of herself. But Tera’s hopes for the future explode when the police arrest her dad for an unspeakable crime. Her father’s arrest must be a mistake, so Tera goes into action, sacrificing her future at art school to pay for his defense. Meanwhile, she falls head over heels for Joey, a rebel musician who makes her feel wanted and asks no questions about her past. Joey helps Tera forget her troubles, but he brings a whole new set of problems to Tera’s already complicated life. Then, to make matters worse, as her relationship with Joey deepens and as her dad’s hotshot lawyer builds a defense, fractures begin to appear in Tera’s childhood memories–fractures that make her wonder: could her father be guilty? And whether he’s guilty or innocent, can she find a way to step out of the shadows of her father’s reputation and walk free? Can she stop him, guilty or innocent, from tainting the only future she ever wanted? “A Work of Art” is a deeply felt story about self-image, self-deception, and the terrible moment that comes when we have to face the whole truth about the myths of our childhoods.

This is an incredibly good book but also an incredibly hard one.  I liked Tera immediately, and because of that I felt protective—and because of THAT, a lot of things in this book made me angry.  Like a lot of teenage girls (okay, like a lot of people in general), she doesn’t always make the best decisions.

Anyway, Tera’s entire life, she’s wanted to become an artist.  (As in professionally, not as a hobby.)  Her dream’s very close to coming true…until her dad is accused of a crime that she’s sure he didn’t commit.  She’s convinced that it’s a mistake (one that’s actually her fault, and so something she’s duty-bound to correct).  Except…what if it’s not?

While her life is awful and seems to ricochet from bad to worse and back again, she clings to the things she knows for sure, and to her art.  Horrible things are happening around her, but Tera refuses to completely give in.  She’s a heroine you can’t help but like and root for.

Highly recommended.

Castle of Sighs Cover Reveal

COS Framed Cover
“Some secrets cannot be kept—in life or in death.
Months have passed since Rune has heard a single whisper from her long-dead mother, the great witch of Bavaria. But the absence of one evil has only made room for another.
After rightfully inheriting her ancestral home, Pyrmont Castle, Rune settles into a quiet life taking care of two orphans left in the wake of the terrible witch hunt that claimed dozens of lives in the nearby village. As the days grow colder, the castle’s secrets beckon and Rune finds herself roaming where no one has set foot in a long time. In the bowels of the fortress is a locked room full of memories that hang like cobwebs—shelves stacked with jars, strange specimens, putrid liquids, and scrolls of spells. Rune is undeniably drawn to what she finds there, and she begins to dabble in the possibilities of magic, hoping to find a cure for the strangeness overwhelming the castle.
As secrets unspool, the delicate thread of Rune’s world is threatened when she realizes the key may lie in the dark forest she once called home and the boy she thought she knew.”

Sounds so awesome, right? I can’t wait!

Beckon Me Cover Reveal

Beckon Me

Click here to preorder itClick here for Cindy Thomas’ website.

“Everything nineteen-year-old Karina Mitchell knows about death changes the instant that she and her best friend, Rainey, are shot. For one, souls don’t die. They cross over. Only, Rainey’s soul hasn’t, and her ghost is hell bent on haunting Karina.

When Karina begins her sophomore year of college and moves into the apartment that she was supposed to share with Rainey, she learns a few shocking truths from her mysterious and gorgeous blue-eyed neighbor, Eli.

One: Karina has been chosen to become a Beckoner—an immortal conduit of the dead who helps safely guide souls to the other side.

Two: She’s the reason that Rainey’s soul can’t cross over—Rainey followed her back from death and missed her window to be at peace.

Three: Eli is hot. As in swoon-worthy, to-die-for, will-make-you-forget-yourself hot. And it turns out, Eli is a Beckoner, too.

Despite her attraction to Eli, the decision to become a Beckoner isn’t an easy one—it would mean giving up her own mortality … her own soul. But if she doesn’t, her best friend will be left to suffer an eternity at the hands of the evil Ceptors, dark creatures that feed on the souls left behind. After all, it’s her fault Rainey is haunting her.

Time is running out, and Karina needs to decide: Are love and loyalty worth sacrificing her soul?

BECKON ME is a new adult paranormal romance suitable for upper YA and NA audiences ages 16 and up.”

It’s so amazing, you guys! I can’t wait for you all to read it.

May B.

Finished May B. by Caroline Starr Rose.

Summary (from Goodreads):

May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again.

Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.”

Oh, this book and its heroine.

I love May, who is trying hard to be good at school but who has a learning disability (which, since it’s the long-ago time, was undiagnosed because people had no idea about things like this).  Since she can’t read very well, she’s convinced that she’s stupid.

And then she is essentially left alone for months (long story) and even though she’s young and completely unprepared for it, she manages to survive.  (So there, May—you’re not stupid.)

Because this is a novel in verse, it’s an incredibly quick read.  (There’s also the fact that you have a young girl left alone in a strange house, supplies are running low and winter is coming—and there may or may not be wolves outside.  So it would be a fast read regardless, because who doesn’t love a survival story?)

I was sad to see that Caroline Starr Rose only has one book out, but there’s a new one out this year.  I’ll have to look for it.

Highly recommended.

Shattered Angel

Finished Shattered Angel by Carrie Beckort.  I received a copy from the author for review and there’s a giveaway! Click here to enter.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The choice between life and death should be an easy one. However, the life that I had been given—the life I’m being asked to go back to—makes death seem like a welcome reprieve.

Before I turned eight, my mother sold me. The man who bought me trained me for the life he expected me to live. For more than ten years I was held captive, beaten, tortured—shattered. There was one person who cared about me, and that gave me the strength to hold on to the small part of me that still existed. I finally escaped, only to learn that the hold of my past was stronger than the pull of my future.

Now he’s captured me again, and he’s given me a choice—life with him, or death.

I have 24 hours to decide.”

I was so excited to get to read this book.  I absolutely loved her first book (Kingston’s Project) and this sounded amazing.  And it is, but it’s also really, really different.

This book is an absolutely harrowing, brutal experience.  It’s never gratuitous but bad things happen and we know about it.  The early chapters, where we experience things from a young Angel’s perspective, reminded me of Room.  We are only told what Angel knows, and she doesn’t know much.  But since you’ll be reading this from a grownup’s perspective, you will understand things she doesn’t.

It’s not like either choice was particularly great, and I went back and forth about which would be the best choice for Angel to make.  (To quote Stephen Hawking, where there’s life, there’s hope, and I was hoping that she’d choose life just so she could wait for an opportunity to escape again…but then, too, is it really better to be alive if THAT is the life you have? No, probably not.)

I will say that we do know for a fact which choice she makes.  It isn’t an ending where the reader can interpret it either way.

This is an amazing book, but be prepared to cry several times.

Highly recommended.

The Question of Miracles

Finished The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Following the death of her best friend, Iris and her family move to Oregon for a fresh start in this middle-grade story of miracles, magic, rain, hope, and a hairless cat named Charles.

Sixth-grader Iris Abernathy hates life in Corvallis, Oregon, where her family just moved. It’s always raining, and everything is so wet. Besides, nothing has felt right since Iris’s best friend, Sarah, died.

When Iris meets Boris, an awkward mouth-breather with a know-it-all personality, she’s not looking to make a new friend, but it beats eating lunch alone. Then she learns that Boris’s very existence is a medical mystery, maybe even a miracle, and Iris starts to wonder why some people get miracles and others don’t. And if one miracle is possible, can another one be too? Can she possibly communicate with Sarah again?”

I absolutely adored this MG novel.  Grieving is hard for everyone, of course, but I feel like it’s probably worse when you’re young and when you lose your best friend.  I felt so horrible for Iris, because you know probably nobody her age has any sort of experience with losing anyone.  (And even if they do, it’s probably a grandparent, not someone their own age.)

I loved the questions this book raises (are miracles possible? If they are, who does God give miracles to some but not to others? Are there ghosts? Can you talk to the dead?) and everything was handled in a respectful and authentic manner.  I never thought that Iris was behaving unrealistically.  She seemed like any sixth grader in the world, even though she was obviously dealing with things most sixth graders wouldn’t ever have to deal with.

I need to read her earlier books, and hope to make my way to them at some point this year.

Highly recommended.

Witness

Finished Witness by Karen Hesse.

Summary (from Amazon):

“Leanora Sutter. Esther Hirsh. Merlin Van Tornhout. Johnny Reeves . . .

These characters are among the unforgettable cast inhabiting a small Vermont town in 1924. A town that turns against its own when the Ku Klux Klan moves in. No one is safe, especially the two youngest, twelve-year-old Leanora, an African-American girl, and six-year-old Esther, who is Jewish.

In this story of a community on the brink of disaster, told through the haunting and impassioned voices of its inhabitants, Newbery Award winner Karen Hesse takes readers into the hearts and minds of those who bear witness.”

This is historical fiction and a novel in verse.  It’s important to know those two things going in.  Each chapter is told from a different townsfolk’s perspective and (spoiler) some are way more pro-Klan than others.

The valuable thing about this novel is that it shows why the Klan would be attractive for some people.  Obviously now, thinking about people who are in the Klan…well, we know who these people are and they are not great.  But bill yourself as a group who supports family values and respecting your own people…well, that’s a lot more attractive until you think about it and are like, “Hey, wait.”

It was interesting to see how the townspeople reacted and how many of them wanted to join.  (I say “interesting,” but I really mean “disheartening.”)  I wish the book had been longer, because I would have liked to have seen how the town reacted after the Klan left.  (Because how do you live with yourself once you realized what you became?)

I enjoyed this, but I wish it had been fleshed out a little more.

My Heart and Other Black Holes

Finished My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.”

Oh, this book.  First off, I love everything about it.  I love Aysel and Roman (together and separately), and I love their families and I love how Aysel even managed to make physics interesting and accessible to me (I do not have a science brain).

Ultimately, this reminded me of Butter by Erin Jade Lange, which is also suicide on a deadline.  As the book progressed, I got increasingly tense, waiting to see what happened. (No spoilers here.)

This is also one of the best descriptions of depression I’ve ever read.  I am prone to melancholy, but I have no problem getting out of bed and going about my daily activities (whether I want to or not).  Obviously it’s hard to understand things that you don’t experience, you know? But reading this book, I totally got it.  (And it’s horrible.)

Highly, highly recommended.