With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ★★★★★

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Review:

Okay so… I am absolutely obsessed with this book. It was my favorite young adult read of the year thus far. As a girl from Philadelphia, I needed this book in my life and I didn’t even know it.

It starts off with Emoni Santiago, a teen mom to a little girl named Emma, who loves to cook. She lives with her grandmother (her Abuela) and is a senior in high school. From the very beginning, you see that Emoni does everything for the two people that mean the most to her, but wants to have a successful career in the culinary industry. When a program comes to her high school, she signs up for the class immediately. With this class, there’s an opportunity to take a trip to Spain to learn more about the culinary arts and Emoni wants to go. It may seem impossible at that moment, but she wants to do everything she can to get on that trip.

When a boy in her culinary class starts to pursue her, Emoni doesn’t know what to do. He wants to be in her life and she doesn’t know what to do because of her past and current life. She worked, took care of her baby girl and her grandmother. Nevertheless, he persisted and Emoni found herself falling for him. This honestly was my favorite part of the book. Emoni found her feelings and really grew this part. She realized what was best for her and how things would turn out. Also, even though I am a massive romance novel buff, her love interest wasn’t the main focus of this book. Making this novel about her growth and showing herself what’s truly best for her and her child was the best part. This is why it got such a high rating from me.

Another thing that this book did so beautifully was give the perspective of a teen mom. They always get a bad reputation and Emoni really let herself PREACH all of the stereotypes and how wrong they were. She was a proving character that worked hard at a young age to provide what she needed to.

Lastly, let me just say, being from Philadelphia – this book will hold a special place in my heart. When hearing the terms “Center City”, “jawn”, “Oxford Circle” and more, I began to really swoon over this book because it held such an emotional connection for me. Elizabeth Acevedo really did her research because the terminology was phenomenal and I felt right at home.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★

“Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.”

Review:

John Green hasn’t failed me yet. I didn’t want to say that this one disappointed me, but it wasn’t as great as I thought it was going to be. John Green has given me this high standard throughout the years, and this one didn’t quite live up to it.

The beginning of Turtles All the Way Down did grab me pretty quickly. I thought the characters were interesting, and I thought that I would find more out about their characters. However, as the book went on, I couldn’t connect to the characters in a way that I thought I would. I really liked Aza’s character, she probably is the reason I gave this a higher a rating. It just was hard to see these characters the way they were written.

Second, the story line was a little weird. I feel like the missing father didn’t really have a lot to do with the book. Of course this plays a big part of the story, but I couldn’t really connect them and Aza. I feel like there were a lot of missed connections.

I have read countless young adult books with mental illness and mental health as their genres and I feel like John Green did a great job inserting his own OCD into Aza’s character. However, I still couldn’t get a direct feel from her character. There was something about her that was just so tough to read, I couldn’t figure it out. The ending was a little spark of something to get something else going for this book, but unfortunately, it was the end and I wish there was something else to add to it.

For the next John Green book I read, I want to not have my expectations so high. Every book is a new book. I took my previous ratings from his other books and I automatically set this book to a really high standard. I think a lot of people did the same thing I did, and I feel like that probably hurt this book more in the long run.

Lucky in Love by Kasie West

Publication Date: July 25th, 2017
Publisher: Scholastic

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★

Can’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?”

Review:

Lucky in Love starts out with a girl Maddie who wins the lottery by buying her first ticket on her 18th birthday. What is a teen supposed to do with $50 million dollars? After she wins, everyone changes. They all want money and Maddie doesn’t know who she is, who her friends are, and who she can trust. Family included.

This book really flew by for me. I read it in a day. Half of me thinks the fact that I read it so quickly is a good thing and the other half wasn’t really impressed. I wanted to find out what was going to happen in the end, but I felt like the reason was because I wanted to get to the end.

The story was pretty typical. I feel like when reading the synopsis, I had a vision of what this story was going to be like. Teen wins lottery, people try to use her for money, she meets a boy, everything is fine, the rest is history. Unfortunately, I was pretty spot on. I was hoping for some twist. This book seemed pretty vanilla.

I think that this book was neutral for me. Everything seemed flat-lined. It wasn’t terrible, but there wasn’t a stand out moment that made this book phenomenal. This is my third Kasie West novel that I read, so I enjoy her as an author.

 

Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Publication Date: June 6th, 2017
Publisher: Knopf Publishing

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★★

Love lives between the lines.

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction, and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.

Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.”

Review:

There were many things about this book that stood out to me, and one of them kept me from giving this book a 5 star rating. The characters were very well established, and the story was great. On the other hand, one major subject about this book, romance, should have been more prevalent. It seemed almost desperate, and sometimes I think that makes a book. In this case, I didn’t seem to like it as much.

As a library assistant, books about book stores or libraries always seem to get a five star rating from me. I think it’s a personal preference and a hope that a romance like that will happen to me one day. However, the romance in this book threw me for a loop. In this book, there are two main characters, Rachel and Henry. Rachel is in love with Henry. Henry is in love with a girl named Amy. When Rachel leaves, she leaves a note in a book for Henry to read. This is where it kind of shut off for me. Amy is a cold-hearted girl. I would see Henry being so in love with Amy if she was a nice girl, but the way the author wrote about her, I couldn’t like her. Because Henry was so in love with this girl that was terrible, I had a hard time liking Henry.

When Rachel comes back, the story picks up from there. She lost her brother while she was gone, and becomes this cold, distant girl who could use a friend. I sympathized with her and liked her character. The death of her brother had such an impact on her, however, she kept it a secret for a lot of the book. I feel like that should have been a massive part of the story, it kind of was, but keeping a secret until the end was hard as well.

The thing that kept this book at a higher star rating for me was the setting. The author did a phenomenal job with the setting. I felt like I was there with all of the details. Howling Books was the perfect bookstore and I would love to go there and see the books that were described!

When It’s Real by Erin Watt

Publication Date: May 30th, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★★★

“From #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt comes the addictive contemporary tale of a teen rock star in need of an image makeover and the teen girl hired to be his fake girlfriend.

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?”

Review:

This book was so, so awesome. There were so many qualities that made this book great. The characters, story, and chemistry made this book absolutely fantastic for me. There were times where I was super excited for what was happening next.

Vaughn Bennett stole my heart right from the beginning. Her character was adorable, smart, and strong. This book resonated with me in many ways, but I really noticed how much how I connected to her character. She is a girl who goes through a lot, but when it meant it the most, she pulled through and showed her strength. The other characters really developed through this book too. I really flip-flopped through this book with the characters, and I enjoyed that a lot!

The story is my favorite, favorite type. I love the whole rock-star celebrity falling for a normal girl narrative. I’ve read this type of story multiple times and I think that this book might just be one of my favorites ever. The way that Erin Watt wrote this had me all over the place with different emotions.

Overall, I loved this book. I’d recommend this book to anyone. It’s good for any age. It might be classified as young-adult, but this book should be read by adults too. It’s a fantastic, quick read.

 

 

 

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Publication Date: August 8th, 2017

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.”

Review:

This book had a lot of promising qualities, but it fell a little short for me. There were so many things going on in this book that went along with things in today’s society, but it didn’t feel like it went above and beyond.

The characters were good. I enjoyed the brother and sister aspect even though they were stepbrother and sister. I really liked how they were an African American family marrying into a white family and how the author talked about how things were shown and how people would stare. It was parts like this that seemed very real.

The main character is bisexual. I was very happy with this because it seems that people think that bisexuality doesn’t exist. There are people out there that are attracted to both men and women. I was glad that the author did bring up another social problem from today’s society.

When it came to the actual story of what was going on, I felt like I kept getting stuck. I kept having to stop because it wasn’t grasping my attention. I flew through this book because it couldn’t really holding me. The story seemed a little flat. There were no twists or turns and it seemed a little boring.

I really liked the ending. The ending is where I felt like it did grab my attention. The problems that were occurring felt very real and could easily happen to anyone in real life. It honestly made my chest tighten and tear up a little. I applaud the author on a great, great ending.

Overall, this book was good, but it wasn’t my favorite. There were things that this book could’ve used with all the different platforms it represented, but I felt like it wasn’t there.

Rating: ★★★

On the Fence by Kasie West

Published: July 1st, 2014

“For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.”

Review:

This book was super quick, cute, and emotional. There were things that this book that were phenomenal, but overall, it was a four star rating for me!

The characters were great. I really loved the “only girl in a all boys household”. This is a classic “brother’s best friend” story and I love that kind of book. There were parts of the characters that I loved, but also, didn’t make me swoon completely. I think that there were more things that could have happened with their developments in the characters that would’ve made this book five stars.

The plot of this book was very emotional. The overall story of what happened and how she had been living with this secret that she didn’t even know about was heartbreaking. There were some parts of it that had me close to tears. However, there were times where I thought that the story was a little far-fetched and that they couldn’t really happy. I love a story that I could relate to, and this one was great, but it seemed a little too far for me.

I’ve read two of Kasie West’s books and I liked both of them. They are written very well and a person can fly through them in one day. Maybe even a few hours. Young adult lovers and romance lovers should really read Kasie West’s books. I think that the people who resonate with current romance troubles or current love lives would love these books!

Rating: ★★★★

The Problem With Forever by Jennifer E. Armentrout 

Publication Date: May 17th, 2016

“For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.”

Review:

This was extremely emotional. I had this on an audiobook and I think it made me like it more than I would have in a regular book. I have to give props to the readers on the audiobook because they read with so much emotion that I honestly teared up many times. There were times where I went back and rewound it to listen to specific parts again because they were so wonderful.

The characters were written perfectly for the story. The story was so dark and heartbreaking that the characters fit amazingly. Mallory “Mouse” and Rider were so angsty and frustrating that I don’t think they could have been more perfect. Listening to their stories and thinking that they could relate to people in real life made it all the more saddening.

I just want to talk about “Mouse” herself. Her character was written so beautifully. I wanted to reach inside my radio and hug her. There was so much that her character not only went through, but realized throughout the book. It’s truly unbelievable how Jennifer Armentrout wrote her.

This book was especially an acknowledgement at “group homes”. You hear so much about group homes, whether kids got placed in great places, or they suffer where they are. This was a nod at the kids who don’t get placed in great homes. These kids suffer so much and it showed in the characters. Jennifer Armentrout did such a great job with the details and everything that came with this amazing book.

Rating: ★★★★★


The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

Publication Date: June 7th, 2016

It’s a summer for first love, last wishes, and letting go.

Maddie has big plans to spend the last months before college tying up high school “loose ends” alongside her best friends. Then her beloved grandmother drops two bombshells: (1) Gram is dying. (2) She’s taking her entire family on a round-the-world cruise of dreams come true—but at the end, Gram won’t be returning home.

With a promise to live in the now without regrets, Maddie boards the Wishwell determined to make every moment count. She finds new friends in her fellow Wishwellians, takes advantage of the trip’s many luxuries, gets even closer to her quirky family, and falls for painfully gorgeous Enzo. But despite the copious laughter, headiness of first love, and wonder of the glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram, and she struggles to find the strength to let go in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, grief, and laughter.”

Review:

This book broke my heart. Absolutely broke my heart. This was super hard to read for me because it brought back a lot of memories from when I lost a family member. If you recently lost a family member, this book might be triggering, or it might be very peaceful. It really is how you take it. I adored this book because it feels like it helped me heal some from the loss. If you a crier, have tissues ready.

Maddie is a girl who needs a reality check in life. She is living a life with her best friends that could send her in a spiral. She is supposed to be going to a party the night that her grandmother invites her entire family over. She thought it was going to be an engagement to her boyfriend, but she was very wrong. Going on a cruise where she is going to say goodbye to her grandmother forever? That’s not what Maddie planned for her summer.

This story did a wonderful job of showing the stages of grief. The heartbreak, denial, anger, sadness, depression, and hope really was prevalent throughout the entire book. Carrie Firestone made the reader feels like they are going through the same stages that the main character is feeling.   I am an emotional reader and there were a few times where I teared up, full on cried, and ended up smiling because she made it hopeful.

I was a little unsure about the romance part of this novel. However, going through and reading this from cover to cover, the romance was absolutely meant to be a part of this book. It made the story that much better. It wouldn’t be thought to have romance in a book where someone is dying, but it was very happy and really makes you think.

If there is a time where I go, I would love to be on this cruise. I wish it was a real thing. I would go and live my days happily and peacefully. This book gave me hope that there are people who live out their final days like that. Carrie Firestone really did a wonderful, wonderful job on this novel. This was probably one of my favorite books of this year.

Rating: ★★★★★