Review

The Lovely War by Julie Berry

Teen Advisory Corps member Zoe had this to say about The Lovely War by Julie Berry. 

Sometimes young adult books seem to fall prey to repetitive formats and cliches. And sometimes a book like Lovely War by Julie Berry comes along and suddenly Greek gods are sitting around a World War II-era hotel room and narrating a story that takes place during the previous world war. Despite all the fantasy, somehow, Berry also manages to construct an honest tale and weave together readers’ emotions like the Fates themselves. Through four main characters, Hazel, James, Colette, and Aubrey, we gain insight into a wide variety of perspectives of war and see the struggles facing those two sets of lovers in a way that represents those of so many more.

Lovely War is a study of the relationship between the titular ideas: love and war. And that’s the amazing part of the story, how it’s not just entertaining but meaningful as well. Through James’s perspective, we see the psychological destruction of war, and how that damage affects those like Hazel who love suffering soldiers. Colette represents the true tragedy of war as she has lost so much, and Aubrey helps bring the oft-overshadowed story of black WWI soldiers to life. Their lives intersect like music, fitting as Hazel and Aubrey play piano and Colette sings.

Love, readers learn, is the vital ingredient for surviving war. This Aphrodite explains between glimpses into the lives of humans. And here the book is optimistic, offering hope even for those thrust into the atrocities of war. Plus, Lovely War makes for a very educational historical fiction, as we’re introduced not only to real-life battles but to changing musical trends and civil rights progress as well. Thus, Berry’s writing produces a unique rhythm as it follows a complex melody, suggesting haunting beauty along the way.

Books: 
Lovely War Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780451469939
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - March 5th, 2019

Love from A to Z by SK Ali

Zayneb has always spoken up against her Islamophobic teacher, but one day he has finally had it and gets her suspended the week before spring break. Already having plans to travel to Qatar, she leaves a week early and stays with her Auntie Nandy. Adam is returning to Qatar to visit his dad and sister and to finally tell them about his multiple sclerosis diagnosis. On the airplane from London to Doha, Qatar, Zayneb and Adam meet. Both being Muslim and keeping a journal recording life’s marvels and oddities, they feel a connection and intrigue towards each other. Adam and Zayneb continue to run into each other in Doha, and find that they are attracted to the other. Told through alternating journal entries of marvels and oddities, Adam and Zayneb realize things about themselves, and discover ways to overcome their obstacles.

 

Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali is a powerful and impactful story about two Muslim teens struggling with challenges in their life. What I find most important about this story is its realness and truthfulness. The glimpses of Doha accompanied with Islamic culture helps to set the tone for the story and allows the reader to feel as if they are connected with the characters. In addition, Ali wrote with such passion that the reader is able to step into the character’s shoes and experience their feelings. Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali is an unforgettable book that expanded my global perspective.

The Opposite of Always by Jason A Reynolds

Claire L reviewed The Opposite of Always by Jason A Reynolds - Pre-order your copy today! Due out March, 2019

Jack and Kate’s story starts on the staircase at your typical college party. Immediately, they connect over their mutual love for cereal. Jack gives Kate his number, but doesn’t hear from her for a few days. When he finds a message from her on his phone, he invites her to the first of many outings—and finally to prom. She doesn’t show up, and Jack is worried and confused. He learns Kate has an illness from which she eventually dies. Jack is absolutely devastated.

In his devastation, Jack finds himself experiencing deja vu. Suddenly, he’s back at the staircase where he and Kate first met. Just like the first time, she says “Excuse me, man, but you’re sort of damming up the steps.”


Justin A. Reynolds writes with humor and thoughtfulness as he explores the finality of death in Opposite of Always. While this was not always an easy book to read with its inevitable ending, there were so many laugh-out-loud moments. Jack had so much hope, and his hope was contagious. I actually enjoyed Jack’s re-experiencing the day he and Kate first met as it brought a familiarity to the story. I also liked how Jack re-evaluates his decisions each time he’s sent back. In addition, I loved Jack’s friends and relationship with Kate because it reminded me of how important good friendships are. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds is an optimistic and humorous take on a more serious topic.

 

- Claire L

Books: 
Opposite of Always Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062748379
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - March 5th, 2019

Quarterly Romance Reading Recommendations from Author Jennifer Ryan

It's a new season, and that means brand new reading recommendations from author Jennifer Ryan (Montana Heat series)

Something Old

My obsession with historical romance continues with one of my favorite authors. 

WHEN A DUKE LOVES A WOMAN by Loraine Heath  

Get lost in – because I sure did - this perfectly crafted, superbly told page-turner where passion overrides a Duke’s duty and an independent commoner’s practicality and love is the only thing that can intertwine their two very different worlds into a lifetime of happiness neither of them thought possible. This books transports you to the Whitechapel slums where hardship and struggle are a way of life and one woman rises above her circumstances to become a tavern owner. An unlikely and uncommon life for a woman back then, but even the temptation of the London ton and an affair with a Duke can make this independent woman give up what she’s worked so hard to achieve – and lucky for her, the Duke agrees.

 

Something New

A new to me author… 

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with HelenKay Dimon several times over the last few years. We both write for Avon and attend author events together. She’s fun, witty, and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. But in all the time I’ve known her, I never read one of her books. For shame, I know. But then we were both nominated for the Romance Writers of America RITA® award for Romantic Suspense. HelenKay won! And I was so proud of my publishing sister. We celebrated her well-deserved win that night with wine. How do I know it was well-deserved? Because of course I picked up one of her books to check out the competition. ;) I fell so hard for her characters and her writing. I immediately bought all the books in her Bad Boys Undercover and Games People Play series. I do not do that often, but I had to read ALL of her books.

I suggest you start with THE FIXER. Smart. Sexy. Intriguing. A cold case that makes this a great page-turner. Wren is the perfect secretive loner with an awkward side Emery and I fell hard for. You will, too. And then you’ll want the whole Games People Play series, too!

 

Something Borrowed

My good friend and fellow western romance author A. J. Pine - author of the Crossroads Ranch series and her most recent release, TOUGH LUCK COWBOY – couldn’t wait to tell you all about her latest cowboy crush…

“The cowboy who stole my heart was Eli Garrett from PART-TIME COWBOY by Maisey Yates. He's a rancher and Copper Ridge's deputy sheriff. Nothing like a man who can pull off a uniform and a cowboy hat all while making Sadie Miller--and readers--swoon!”

Something Blue

I absolutely love the cover for Sophie Jordan’s THE DUKE BUYS A BRIDE. That dress. Gorgeous. The almost kiss. Sexy. And the title. What? I had to know more about this story. A selfish – and a bit lost – Duke finds compassion and obligation lead him to reevaluate his life and the choices he’s made. He thinks he’s helping Alyse – saving her – but she saves him from an insubstantial life and fills his lonely world with love. You’ll root for Marcus and Alyse along their journey and cheer when they admit all they want is each other and succumb to a love they both wanted but neither saw coming.

 

Be sure to check out Jennifer's latest release is MONTANA HEAT: TEMPTED BY LOVE. It’s the last book in the series – but stands alone. DEA agent Jay Bennett falls for this best friend’s little sister, who knows his dangerous life and wants nothing to do with it, except neither of them can fight the temptation to be together.

I hope you enjoy all of these recommendations.

Happy reading!

-Jennifer

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Books: 
Tempted by Love: A Montana Heat Novel Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780062645296
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Avon - August 21st, 2018

Tough Luck Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch #3) Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9781538727102
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Forever - August 28th, 2018

When a Duke Loves a Woman: A Sins for All Seasons Novel Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780062676023
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Avon - August 21st, 2018

The Fixer: Games People Play Cover Image
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9780062441300
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Avon - December 27th, 2016

Part Time Cowboy (Copper Ridge) Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780373779598
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Hqn - March 31st, 2015

The Duke Buys a Bride: The Rogue Files Cover Image
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9780062463647
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Avon - July 24th, 2018

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If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemun-Broka

Claire L reviewed If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka. Pre-order your copy today! Out  4/23/19

Popular girl Cameron Bright has a reputation for not being the nicest person in school. Cameron has never worried too much about her reputation—that is until her crush Andrew agrees with everyone else about Cameron’s personality. In an effort to get back in Andrew’s good graces, Cameron decides to make an ‘Amends’ list of all the people she needs to make amends with. It starts with Paige—the girl who ruined her chances with Andrew. At first her efforts are purely for Andrew, but Paige sees right through that. So, Cameron finds herself hanging out with Paige and her friends, and Paige’s brother Brendan. As time goes on, Cameron realizes that maybe she isn’t just completing the list for Andrew anymore.

First of all, I love that both of Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s books relate back to Shakespeare and his works because I'm always a fan of book references within books. And, the reference to The Taming of the Shrew allowed for a neat parallel in the story. Going along with that connection, I really liked Cameron's character development because I think it shares a good message about being yourself and the importance of doing just that. In the beginning Cameron was a strong character by always being honest and saying what she thought, but in the end she was stronger in a different, real way. All together If I’m Being Honest has a lot of positive elements that I really appreciated seeing represented in a story.

 

-Claire L

Books: 
If I'm Being Honest Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780451481092
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - April 23rd, 2019

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Mirage by Somaiya Daud

In a world dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated home. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty―and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.

 

Basically, this book is everything I've ever wanted in a sci-fi book and more. I don't know about you but I'm a fan of fantasy and sci-fi books that adapt cultures that aren't my own into the world that they've created and that's exactly what Somaiya Daud does in this magnificent book. 

It did take me a bit of time to get into the story, but once I did I couldn't stop. The beginning two or three chapters were a little dull, not necessarily in a bad way, but they weren't riveting, instead, they were filled with exposition. That exposition-filling (or whatever that's called) made it hard for me to keep track of things since I got a bit of an information overload. By the fourth chapter, though, I got into the rhythm of the book and the story really flowed. 

Other than the few roadblocks in the beginning, the rest of the book was paced incredibly well and the storyline matched with character arks with a precision I'm not used to in stories, especially not from debut novelists. 

Perhaps the biggest triumph of the book is the fact that the story manages to be both plot and character driven- the characters drive the plot and the plot drives the characters in a way that leaves you feeling like you're very much in the middle of the action. 

I wish I'd gotten a bit of a better explanation of different cultural aspects because by the time I'd gotten a hold of them, the scenes involving them had more or less resolved themselves. That being said the world building is fantastic and, as someone who just adores well built worlds, I fell head over heels for this world. Like I would actually marry it. 

 

All in all, I give this book 5/5 stars.

 

-Alexina L

Books: 
Mirage: A Novel (Mirage Series #1) Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250126429
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - August 28th, 2018

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Claire L has reviewed A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Shirin—a high schooler who practices Islam and wears a hijab—has moved schools once again. Her parents both had difficult lives growing up in Iran, so they have worked hard in America to give Shirin and her brother Navid a better childhood than they had. Shirin never had problems with other people until 9/11. But, Shirin learned to ignore everyone in order to protect herself. And, she plans on doing the same at this new school. To keep her school life interesting and more positive, Navid decides to start a breakdancing crew—a dream Shirin has shared with her brother forever.


I absolutely loved A Very Large Expanse of Sea. I am so impressed with Tahereh Mafi's writing because I would go from laughing out loud to crying in the matter of a few sentences. There was great dialogue; both charming, thoughtful, and difficult to read. But, the book felt balanced. Just when you would be getting really emotional over a hateful action that occurred, it would switch to something lighter (like a breakdancing moment). This book is powerful. It deals with prejudice and stereotypes towards religion and some of the impacts they can have on people. I have read books that made me sad, but this book really made me think and feel something. I felt empowered reading this book because Shirin is such a strong character (even though she had her worries). Because I enjoy Tahereh Mafi’s writing style, I suspected I would love this book. While A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a different genre from her Shatter Me series, it still features a strong female lead and Tahereh’s signature writing voice. I can definitely say that A Very Large Expanse of Sea is one of my new favorite books.

 

- Claire L

Books: 
A Very Large Expanse of Sea Cover Image
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9780062866561
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: HarperCollins - October 16th, 2018

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Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Zoe J review Firstlife by Gena Showalter.

Most YA heroes and heroines in adventure stories need only focus on keeping their one and only life. But in Tenley Lockwood’s world, everyone is guaranteed two chances. Before their first death, inhabitants of Earth, or “The Land of the Harvest,” must choose between two realms to spend their everlives. As a person can’t even decide on a future college or career, I can appreciate the amount of pressure such a decision would entail. This stress follows Ten throughout her story. And, if she dies without choosing a realm, she will end up in the terrifying “Many Ends.”

For Firstlife, Gena Showalter created a great concept that could have had better execution. At the beginning, we find Ten stuck in an asylum where families can send their children as punishment. While the goal of escape is clear here, the story’s purpose becomes more muddled as the novel progresses. Showalter also misses the opportunity to really develop her world; readers barely get any history of the realms. Furthermore, important plot points seem to be brought up and never elaborated on, and some events seem unrealistic even for a fantasy novel.

As a character, I found Tenley to have a definite personality. She did, however, have a somewhat-annoying obsession with numbers; for example, she uses the word “zero” instead of swearing. For a love interest, we get the cliche “dark and brooding” Killian. His enemy Archer, who might also be in love with Ten, seems kinder and a bit more realistic. And throughout the story, these characters often suffer from awkward dialogue. Still, the plot remains the biggest issue with the novel.

Firstlife does have potential, and maybe some of its problems are resolved in the rest of the series. But personally, I would recommend searching for something else.

 

-Zoe J

Books: 
Firstlife (Everlife Novel) Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9780373212217
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harlequin Teen - January 3rd, 2017

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The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

When Penny returns to her small Michigan hometown, she expects to spend the summer focusing on her journalistic aspirations. Instead, she finds herself trying to rescue her missing father from what might just be aliens. With The Truth Lies Here author Lindsey Klingele creates a sci-fi story that is at times humorous and surprisingly touching. Throughout the story, Penny is forced to re-evaluate her black-and-white defination of the truth as she finds the simplest explanation to not always be the correct one. Similarly, she quickly begins to examine her complicated relationship with her father when she learns that there's more to him than the conspiracy-theorist she’d always known. Fans of The X-Files will enjoy Penny’s interactions with an old friend, where she plays Scully to his Mulder. And even while inexplicable events occur, Klingele is able to depict an accurate and relatable image of teenage life, from Penny’s tense relationship with an ex-best friend to her growing feelings toward the town's star quarterback. Klingele’s work demonstrates the dangers of summarizing events and people with a simple viewpoint without examining their complexities. She also provides comforts to those who may feel as if they don’t belong, as Penny has similar doubts while reacquainting herself with her hometown. But the story doesn’t get too caught up in these ideas; the plot remains fast-paced and the characters are interesting and realistic. Overall, The Truth Lies Here makes a great read for anyone looking for a little extraterrestrial action in their summer.

 

- Zoe J

Books: 
The Truth Lies Here Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062380395
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperTeen - August 21st, 2018

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Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Emi is an aspiring production designer, who was just gifted her brother's apartment for the summer. His only condition? She do something amazing with it. She’s not sure what that will be at first, but she has the whole summer to figure that out. Meanwhile, her internship at a production agency, sends her to an estate sale of a famous actor. A letter tucked into one of the findings at the sale leads Emi and her friend on a mystery.

Nina LaCour’s beautiful writing has a poetic feel to it. In addition, her details in describing Emi’s rooms allowed me to easily visualize them. What especially stood out to me with this story is the three plots: Emi’s growth as a production designer, the mystery behind the letter, and a romance. I liked the balance of the three elements, and how they worked together to keep developing the story. There were so many moments in this book that had me falling in love with the characters.

 

-Claire L

Books: 
Everything Leads to You Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9780142422946
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Speak - May 5th, 2015

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