‘All-American Liars’ by Emily Kazmierski Book Review

‘All-American Liars’ by Emily Kazmierski shines a light on the lies people tell themselves and others to help save face and shape specific plans and possible futures.

Tristan is the golden boy of the book, destined for the All-American basketball team that is choosing students from the high school circuit. His girlfriend, Annie, while happy to be in love with him, is hiding a secret of her own that threatens the end of Tristan’s good fortune. While she hides this secret, she finds herself blackmailed by one of Tristan’s teammates, Rich, who has begun spinning an elaborate web of lies that he believes will bring him everything he wants, including his own spot on the All-American team, a relationship with Annie, and Tristan’s takedown.

While everyone is keeping secrets, Tristan finds himself suspended from school, not able to be believed by his parents or supposed friends, and in trouble with the police for a crime he didn’t commit. Rich’s scheme to make it look like Tristan has been taking steroids is well on its way to working in Rich’s favor. Even though Rich once in a while feels tinges of guilt for doing this to Tristan, he convinces himself that Tristan deserved it, which shows how people tell themselves anything and everything to assuage their worry and upset over how they feel things are working out.

Annie, meanwhile, is desperate to tell Tristan the truth about her part in everything, but worried that her revelation will cause him to never want anything to do with her again. It’s hard in this day and age to know when someone is telling the truth or lying, and it can be truly frustrating when one knows he/she is telling the truth and can’t find a way to get that across in a clear and focused way.

The book, while a bit lengthy and somewhat repetitive of the themes (Tristan’s anger, Annie’s upset over whether or not to tell the truth, Rich’s scheming to keep it all going), did a nice job of showcasing the importance of bringing the truth to the forefront and ensuring that everyone has the facts. ‘All-American Liars’ by Emily Kazmierski is an interesting read that will have readers questioning their own ability to decipher what’s true and what’s not, while not always believing the headlines that would have you think that something is a fact right off the bat.

You can find ‘All-American Liars’ by Emily Kazmierski here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Bear’s Spooky Book of Hidden Things’ by Gergely Dudas Book Review

‘Bear’s Spooky Book of Hidden Things’ by Gergely Dudas is for anyone who loves books like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Even adults may find it difficult to find some of the items hidden in the pages – though that’s the fun of it. There is not much of a story, but the point of the book is that Bear wants to find some of his favorite treat – honeycomb – and he goes trick or treating on Halloween in order to get as much of it as he can. In the process, he finds many other items, including a wagon, a mask, a magic wand, an apple, and even a broomstick, among other hidden things.

The kindness of friends and the fun of hunting for your treats on Halloween night brings a sense of fun and games to the story. Anyone who likes the thrill of scavenger hunts will enjoy this spooky and creatively illustrated children’s tale.

You can find ‘Bear’s Spooky Book of Hidden Things’ by Gergely Dudas here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Shorty & Clem Blast Off!’ by Michael Slack Book Review

‘Shorty & Clem Blast Off!’ by Michael Slack is a cute addition to Shorty and Clem’s adventures. The first book introduced the two best friends who can drive each other crazy but end up loving each other and helping each other out at every turn. This book was more of the same, still in a delightful way. While Clem is busy trying to build a brand new rocketship, his dinosaur friend, Shorty, is eager to do anything he can to speed the process along and show his determination to be part of the process. Despite the hijinks that ensure and the sense of catastrophe that Clem is feeling as a result of Shorty’s efforts to help, they come to understand each other better and share in their difficulties and triumphs as they work to get the rocketship off of the ground.

Shorty’s incessant chatter about why he is so helpful and who else he has helped as a means of recommending himself to be Clem’s partner is very endearing and shows just how young kids can be when they really want to be part of something. Clem is the more rational and focused one, wanting everything to go just as planned, and when it doesn’t, he generally isn’t calm about it.

A fun and relatable read that kids of all ages will enjoy, ‘Shorty & Clem Blast Off’ is the perfect story for those who want to see things work out but like the sense of craziness that ends up leading to that outcome.

You can find ‘Shorty & Clem Blast Off!’ by Michael Slack here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘The Last Best Story’ by Maggie Lehrman Book Review

‘The Last Best Story’ by Maggie Lehrman is provocative and intriguing, bringing a shadow of a doubt to the truth-finding process and how life throws curveballs that can throw one’s life completely off-kilter.

Rose and Grant have been friends and newspaper buddies since freshman year. Over their time on the paper together, their relationship has stayed pretty constant, and they are generally found co-conspiring about how to work the story to their mutual benefit and present the best piece of writing possible. They also have gone from platonic friends to two people who seemingly have feelings for one another since they have kissed (albeit once) and spent so much of their free time together. Though they have dated separate people and Rose is at prom with another guy while Grant deals with his feelings over his ex-girlfriend while he attends prom solo, they find themselves drawn to each other through the draw of finding the truth.

When someone who has been banned from prom makes his way in, he is escorted out by the vice-principal, only to be accused later on of causing the lockdown due to his having a gun on site. The prom is then waylaid, of course due to the imminent danger everyone presumes is just outside the gym doors. When Rose finds herself in the thick of the story, she can’t stop herself from getting involved, despite her every desire to quit the school paper (and, by extension, her friendship/relationship with Grant) and never look back. What she finds as she searches for answers is that nothing is as it seems, and other people may be involved that she wouldn’t have considered in the first place.

In ‘The Last Best Story,’ Maggie Lehrman teaches readers to question anything and everything about the subject at hand. Appearances can be deceiving, and without all of the facts and hearing everyone’s side of the story, the wrong conclusions can be jumped to and then bandied about, allowing further gossip to thrive, and causing the truth to become an uncertainty even when presented with evidence. Lehrman’s ability to tell the story by searching for the facts rather than letting opinions take over the storyline speaks to the beauty of how this story is written. It brings up issues of race and sexuality among Rose’s and Grant’s friends and how those issues shape what is going on, but it doesn’t fixate on them, and that is a hard line to balance oneself on. However, it speaks to the idea of newspaper stories working to state the facts and steering clear of editorial tendencies that are best used elsewhere.

A scintillating and impressive novel about the excitement of knowing one’s calling and the search for the real story that brings about other lingering truths, ‘The Last Best Story’ should be on anyone’s must-read list. Once you start it, it will be hard to put it down.

You can find ‘The Last Best Story’ by Maggie Lehrman here (available on August 7, 2018).

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*.

‘Let Me List the Ways’ by Sarah White Book Review

‘Let Me List the Ways’ by Sarah White is a breezy and engaging look at the relationship between two best friends and next-door neighbors. Mackenzie (Zie, for short) is in love with the boy next door, Nolan. Yet she continually hesitates to say anything about this to him because she fears what it will do to their relationship when he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. And she’s pretty sure that that is exactly what will happen. They have a playful and extremely friendly relationship, tickling each other and walking into each other’s rooms unannounced, among other things. Nolan obviously cares for her, and readers will find themselves hoping that the care he is showing really will end up amounting to the same feelings that Zie feels for him as the novel progresses.

On top of their friendship, their parents are also very close, and they have a mutual group of friends whom they hang out with quite a bit. When Nolan starts dating someone outside of their circle, Zie does her best to hide her jealousy and upset and just be nice to Erin. She even finds herself interested in another guy, Jude. But, as the majority of contemporary romances do, this story finds a way to show that the two main characters have a connection that is not necessarily to be messed with.

As they try to manage their worry about being separated when college arrives the following year, Zie and Nolan do what they do best: make a list of what they want to do together to make their last remaining months some of the best ever. This before-college bucket list takes them on adventure after adventure, from the comfort of their own backyard to farther away road trips. They know that they will always be there for each other, but wondering in just what capacity that will be is the crux of what makes this novel work so well.

It is also worth noting that Zie has diabetes, and this is brought up quite a bit throughout the story. It is understandable that diabetes can be a sometimes all-encompassing thought process, and Nolan is always there for Zie no matter the situation in order to help her deal with her shots and anything else she may need. Nolan has his own troubles, too, trying to get a baseball scholarship while dealing with an injured shoulder. They play off of each other well, but sometimes the discussion of him helping her out seemed too much. It was made clear very often that her struggles are Nolan’s struggles, and a mere mention here or there throughout the remainder of the novel after the beginning would have been sufficient to explain their diabetic situation.

Sarah White has crafted a sweet and consuming story about first love, friendship, and the beauty of trying to find a way to make it all work together. This novel definitely comes recommended!

You can find ‘Let Me List the Ways’ by Sarah White here (available on August 7, 2018).

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Sleep Train’ by Jonathan London Book Review

‘Sleep Train’ by Jonathan London, illustrated by Lauren Eldridge, is a sweet bedtime story for lovers of rhythm, counting, and the way noises caress you to sleep. The boy in the story is trying to read a book while in bed, and finds himself counting the train cars and lulling himself into a sleepy state. The illustrations help to bring further depth to the book and increase the emotion one might feel while trying to enjoy something, yet feeling the pull of something else (in this case, sleep).

The setting of a darkened night during which the train is passing through is the perfect backdrop against which the boy can count and enjoy the view from his sleeping car. Join countless others who have always dreamed of an escape into the night like ‘Sleep Train’ provides, bringing further interest to the fun of counting and enjoying time doing something one loves.

You can find ‘Sleep Train’ by Jonathan London here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘When Fall Breaks’ by Julie Solano and Tracy Justice Book Review

‘When Fall Breaks’ by Julie Solano and Tracy Justice had a lot of interesting scenarios going on that are not touched upon quite as much in many contemporary books. Abuse is a hard topic to display with empathy and a sense of reality, and the authors have done a good job of making sure this comes across. Often, victims are of the mindset that they are to blame for the troubles befalling them, and that is what Kaitlyn is dealing with as we get to know her and her boyfriend, Pistol, early in the novel.

Aside from her relationship with Pistol, Kaitlyn lives a pretty nice life. She has a twin brother, Caden, and two best friends, Jenna and Brody. Brody is also Caden’s best friend and they’ve all known for each for many years. Their friendship is built on a host of memories, jokes, and nicknames, and they all get along very well. So well, in fact, that Brody and Kaitlyn each have feelings brewing for the other but don’t want to say anything lest they ruin their longstanding friendship. When these feelings bubble to the surface, it brings up a lot of good for the both of them as they learn what they really mean to each other, but it also brings about more trouble, since Pistol’s overly jealous nature is not something with which anyone wants to reckon.

Even though the novel was interesting, there were parts of it that were not as necessary, as the storyline would have likely worked well without it. These scenes, however, were good in that they showed both the volatile nature of her relationship with Pistol and the kind and sweet nature of her relationship with Brody. Yet, the cliffhanger ending of the novel, even though another book in the series will likely resolve it, will leave readers yearning for more, upset that they’ve read quite a long book without a fitting conclusion.

Authors Julie Solano and Tracy Justice have crafted a story that will pull at heartstrings, bring some tears to readers’ eyes, and make those same readers upset that there isn’t more to be read in that particular storyline. It speaks to their ability to engage readers, and for that reason, the novel is certainly worth checking out. Plus, you can read the first couple of chapters of the next one in the series on Amazon’s “Look Inside” option.

You can find ‘When Fall Breaks’ by Julie Solano and Tracy Justice here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

Behind the Scenes of Indie Publishing on YA Books Central

There’s a new Behind the Scenes of Indie Publishing post up on YA Books Central (yabookscentral.com) today. Written by me, it covers the power of social media, networking, and leveraging your abilities in diverse and creative ways. I always love to hear new ideas, so feel free to share yours as you look through mine. Check it out by clicking on the link below. Happy reading and writing!

Behind the Scenes of Indie Publishing, Written by Beth Rodgers

‘Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package’ by Kate DiCamillo Book Review

‘Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package’ by Kate DiCamillo is a story that arouses curiosity about the differences that make us all unique. Eugenia Lincoln and her sister, Baby, are not quite the two halves of a whole you’d expect two sisters to be. They are entirely different, but this only adds to the sweetness of their story.

While Eugenia is brash and not desirous of any sort of fun, Baby is carefree and happy to live life to its fullest. When Eugenia gets a box delivered to her, she is anything but eager to open it, not wishing to know, in any way shape or form, what it contains. However, the interest of her sister, as well as neighbors and strangers, forces Eugenia to do what she desperately wants to avoid – open the box and see what’s in it. What she finds is an accordion, one which she doesn’t want and hastens to find a way to rid herself of so she doesn’t have to look at it any longer than absolutely necessary. Baby, however, encourages her to use it, and the rest of their neighbors – and even pets – want to learn more about it. Eugenia is having none of it, and when a man shows up to teach her how to play it, it only deepens her resolve to get rid of it.

Everyone has their quirks, and Eugenia’s is that she finds anything other than what she considers appropriate aggravating, and she is unwilling to be flexible to make things happen, though she feels that everything should bend to her will. Many people have issues much like this, in that they like things the way they are and are unhappy with the prospect of anything changing. Eugenia’s story with her accordion teaches that life sometimes throws unexpected curveballs, and if you stop and try to catch one once in a while, you may find yourself in the middle of something new, fun, and worthwhile. You just have to open yourself up to it. And so Eugenia does, but the process of her doing so is one that will keep readers wondering just what will be the thing that changes her mind, if anything, and how her sister and neighbors will help her reach that point.

You can find ‘Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package’ by Kate DiCamillo here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Dreams’ by Michelle Lynn Book Review

In ‘Dreams’ by Michelle Lynn, the past is a constant struggle while hope seems almost an irreparable goal. Yet, in true romantic fashion, love conquers all, and main characters Taylor and Josh find that through the sadness, heartache, and troubles that have seemingly conquered their lives, they can find new truth and maybe just have a chance to be happy again.

Taylor Scott is not your typical nineteen-year-old girl. Having lost the love of her life at only eighteen, she knows grief and sorrow in a way that no one ever should. She has yet to pick up the pieces of what she considers her broken life, willing away the days despite knowing that Danny will never come back to her. She doesn’t know how to move on, and even if she did, she has no desire to do so. She feels that if she did, she would be disgracing her relationship with Danny, and she can’t bear to have that happen.

Josh Walker is the light at the end of Taylor’s grief-stricken tunnel. Even though she doesn’t let him in at first, he kindly befriends her, not really expecting that much more will come from it. Not that he wouldn’t want it to, but his good guy persona is not just a front. He’s really that guy. In his friendships and his eventual relationship with Taylor, his sweetness shines through. His family life was never so great – especially his relationship with his brother Ethan – but he comes through it all with grace. Especially in the eyes of his brother’s ex-girlfriend, Michaela, who is a voice of reason in Josh’s life when things are not necessarily going so well for him. His hockey career is seemingly in danger, and if he has anything to say about it, no one ever needs to know what’s wrong with him if that means it will affect his future.

Yet both Taylor’s and Josh’s futures hinge on how they cope with their issues together. Their friendship eventually leads to sparks that turn into something more, but just when things seem to be going right, trouble strikes. They both have to figure out what they mean to each other and how to get past everything that has been weighing them down from their pasts in order to move forward with their future.

With a winning cast of side characters, including Taylor’s roommate Abigail and Josh’s teammate and roommate, Mack, along with Taylor’s parents and many others, ‘Dreams’ is one of Michelle Lynn’s ‘New Beginnings’ novels, and for anyone who has read all of them, they may find this one the best of the bunch. While the others had much of the same heart, sweetness, and romance, Taylor’s and Josh’s story is one that stands out. The fact that it tackles real-life issues and the ways in which people cope is a definite plus. Check out all of Lynn’s ‘New Beginnings’ books. You won’t be sorry you did!

You can find ‘Dreams’ by Michelle Lynn here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*