‘Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd)’ by Julie Bowe Book Review

‘Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd)’ by Julie Bowe follows nine-year-old Wren as she navigates life after her parents’ divorce. Having gone away for the summer without telling any of her friends why, she is hesitant to share that her parents have decided to get a divorce. Adding insult to injury is the fact that her supposed best friend, Amber, has made a new best friend, Marianna, and doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with Wren.

Even though Wren is keeping a secret from Amber, her worry about what will happen when they find out the truth trumps any common sense she may have. The divorce is clearly not her fault, but she feels diminished by it, and as though her friends will think less of her, so she keeps it a secret. It doesn’t help that nine-year-olds can be extremely fickle, so Amber’s sudden fascination in all things Marianna wears on Wren’s sensibilities. Wren’s mom makes life even harder when she requests that Wren and Marianna walk to the library together (where Wren’s mom is the head librarian) every day after school so Wren isn’t alone, due to the fact that both of Wren’s parents will now be working after school and unable to be with her at home.

At first, Marianna comes across as a spoiled, bratty diva. It is definitely possible for nine-year-olds to encapsulate these qualities; however, Marianna’s way of speaking sometimes seemed too old for her age. Despite Wren’s mistrust and dislike of Marianna from the get-go due to Amber and Wren’s falling out, Wren learns that Marianna has some secrets of her own, and maybe – just maybe – they are more alike than Wren could have thought possible.

In this novel by Julie Bowe, friendships are tested, secrets are kept and revealed, parents are annoying, and life is frustrating. Yet, through it all, the world starts to make more and more sense, and each character’s struggle to find their own path results in finding ways to connect with others as well. This is a fast, sweet, and enlightening story that anyone who loves middle grade novels will truly enjoy.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd)’ by Julie Bowe here.

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The Young Adult Summer Scavenger Hunt!


Please join the fun and take part in the Young Adult Summer Scavenger Hunt, put together and sponsored by the Alliance of Young Adult Authors. If you love books, this is for you. If you love scavenger hunts, this is for you. If you love fun in general, this is for you! So don’t miss your chance to check out a whole bunch of new authors (more than 100 awesome ones!), sign up to win some prizes, and have your chance to win some free books!

Here are the rules:

Each author will have a special keyword, bolded in all capital letters (like this: BUTTERFLIES) on their site. When mine is posted, I’ll make a note before it that says: “Here is Beth’s keyword:” followed by my keyword in all capital letters. Some keywords may contain punctuation (mine is one of these). Be sure to include the punctuation as you write the story down so you know where one sentence ends and another begins.

Your task is to visit the authors’ sites in a specific order, write down the special keywords, discover the short story in doing so, and then enter the giveaway once you have completed the short story. The link to post your short story will be posted here when the hunt begins.

There is one main giveaway for the grand prize, but a lot of the participating authors, including me, will have smaller giveaways for free books, Amazon credit, and more, so make sure you read each post on each author’s website carefully to see what they may be offering up as prizes while you’re looking on their site for their special keyword. I will have mine clearly listed near the top of this post when I update it with my keyword.

Now, on to the map, otherwise known as the links to each author’s website where the keywords will be found (remember that you’ll have to go to each author’s website in the order they are listed to get the keywords and have them in the right order to make the story come together):

Click Here for the “Map” of Author Websites

Wishing you the best of luck in completing your keyword scavenger hunt!

Happy reading!

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‘Kiss Me in New York’ by Catherine Rider Book Review

‘Kiss Me in New York’ by Catherine Rider (a pseudonym based on the dual effort of authors James Noble and Stephanie Elliott) is a story that will capture the magic of the holidays in but a few short hours of plot. In some ways, the thought of two strangers meeting and spending a day and night together roaming the city of New York, only to potentially fall for each other, seems unrealistic and, at best, moderately ridiculous. Yet ‘Kiss Me in New York’ finds a way to do anything but trivialize the relationship between London-bound Charlotte and New Yorker Anthony.

Reeling from breakups by their respective romantic partners, they find themselves thrust together at the airport, trying to fit the pieces of their lives back together. Whereas Charlotte has had a couple of weeks to try to make sense of why ex-boyfriend Colin ended things, Anthony’s troubles are extremely fresh. His now ex-girlfriend, Maya, has broken up with him at the airport, on that very morning – Christmas Eve, no less – only serving to re-open other old wounds that have not yet healed from past Christmases.

Together Charlotte and Anthony brave the cold, dark, and mostly empty streets of New York City, trying to reclaim who they were before their relationships turned sour. Guiding them along is a self-help book Charlotte came upon in the airport – ‘Get Over Your Ex in Ten Easy Steps!’ Despite thinking that the book is a scam that won’t serve any purpose in helping them put their past behind them, Anthony goes along with it, and they start following the steps, revealing truths about themselves that they thought long – and best – hidden.

As they learn about themselves as individuals, they also learn about each other, showing that even short amounts of time together can spark true friendship. Charlotte and Anthony’s relationship is a testament to the idea that even the unthinkable – love, or at least friends, at first sight – can come to be. It’s just a matter of believing in yourself and letting yourself be open to every possibility.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘Kiss Me in New York’ by Catherine Rider here.

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‘The Unforgettables’ by G.L. Tomas Book Review

‘The Unforgettables’ by G.L. Tomas follows new next-door neighbors, and seeming soulmates, Paul and Felicia. Their instant connection at a tag sale (garage sale, if not familiar with this term) is believable, unlike some of the insta-relationships that occur in other books. They both go for the same comic, showing that they clearly have common interests and aren’t just seeing each other based on looks. This was a refreshing change of pace since situations like this one more often occur based on physical attraction.

Little do they know that Paul and his family, having recently moved from Chicago, are Felicia’s next-door neighbors. Their families quickly hit it off. While Paul’s parents are more understanding about his free spirit, despite some attempts by his mother to reign it in, Felicia’s parents are described as much stricter and unbending in their positions. However, this may just be Felicia’s opinion of them, since as the novel progresses, they seem to give a little in terms of they way their viewpoints have been described.

Felicia and Paul’s relationship grows from friendship to something more, but neither of them quite knows what to call it, and Felicia’s insistence that her parents won’t let it grow to be anything more than good friends scares Paul off at times. Their relationships with others factor into this, from friends (or the lack thereof), to girlfriends, potential boyfriends, siblings, and others. Some characters were not fleshed out as much as they could have been, but this is relegated more to the secondary characters, such as Paul’s siblings and even their parents, at times. The parents seemed to act as more of a foil to their relationship, but they did serve their purpose in terms of showing how Felicia deals with everything she thinks is causing strife in her life.

The ending, albeit open-ended, was satisfying enough, but it would have been nice to have a jump ahead to learn more about how their relationship changed with time.

‘The Unforgettables’ is a story of trying to find strength where there doesn’t seem to be any. While Felicia and Paul sometimes succeed and sometimes fail in this pursuit, ‘The Unforgettables’ teaches that relationships can certainly be tested, and life has a way of getting in the way, but truth will always win out.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘The Unforgettables’ by G.L. Tomas here.

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‘Blues Harp Green’ by Nicole Schubert Book Review

‘Blues Harp Green’ by Nicole Schubert has an interesting premise. The main character, Francie, meets Chet, a cute and friendly musician, early on in the novel. They hit it off right away and Francie begins crushing on Chet. Even though it could seem one-sided, Chet seems more than happy to talk with Francie, both via e-mail and through phone and video chats. The novel’s perspective, however, is Francie’s, and therefore Chet’s full intentions are never fully known. There was a lot of potential for further character development, as it was extremely hard to connect with the characters. This is not only meant in terms of Francie and Chet, but also Francie’s friends Stella and Eddie, as well as Chet’s bandmates.

In terms of plot, there was also potential for so much more. There were some highlights, in that some of the characters seemed to not be quite what they seemed as the story progressed. These somewhat “twisty” turns of personality were welcomed, but at the same time, there were often loose ends that didn’t seem to be fully formed. The timeline also often seemed to jump ahead, prompting a look back at previous pages to see if something had happened to make the current scene relevant.

Freedom to do what she wanted was a big theme for Francie. Her parents hardly make life easy for her, from her dad’s drinking to her mom’s enabling of it, and she uses playing tennis and trying to go see Chet and his band as an outlet to enable herself to make some bad decisions as well. This is something that can prove very true for teenagers, and in this way, the novel really hit the mark.

Francie’s relationship with new friend, Stella, despite not being fully formed, as mentioned earlier, was the best one in the novel, in my opinion. Even though Stella often seemed out for herself and herself alone, she did also seem to have Francie’s best interests at heart, even if it didn’t seem apparent. In keeping with talk of Francie’s relationships with her friends, it would have been nice to see Francie give Eddie more of a chance. He clearly had some sort of feelings for her, and further development with this would have made for more excitement in the sense of a triangle between her, Chet, and Eddie.

Fans of crush-at-first-sight and the struggle for independence will find that they can likely connect with the storylines in ‘Blues Harp Green’ by Nicole Schubert.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘Blues Harp Green’ by Nicole Schubert here.

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‘Crushed’ by Elisa Dane Book Review

‘Crushed’ by Elisa Dane is a story about owning up to one’s past and struggling to find the courage to move on in life. Main character Nev is having a hard time living her life after she moves in with her aunt and cousin. Even though she loves her cousin Livvie and her aunt, she is distraught that she can no longer be with her parents. Life is not going how she hoped it would, and her rocky past, littered with alcohol and hard-core partying, is not doing much to calm her nerves about living a “cleaner” and more relaxed life.

With Livvie by her side, she makes some new friends at her new school, but the one true friendship she feels she makes becomes seriously threatened right from the get-go when the girl’s quasi-boyfriend, Eli, turns out to be more of a player and less of a stand-up guy. Not understanding that no means no, Eli incessantly pesters Nev to go out with him. Her constant refusals only serve as an energy boost of sorts for him, making him even more persistent in his attempts. Not wanting to ruin her relationship with her new friend who is seeing Eli and thinking she can change him, Nev keeps quiet, much to her chagrin later on in the novel when Eli’s jerky ways catch up to her.

In the meantime, however, Nev meets hunky Bodie, who doesn’t seem to like her at first. As time goes on, he sees that she isn’t who he thought she was, and the icy exterior he wore around her begins to thaw, giving way to a hot and heavy relationship that Nev seemingly wants, but is afraid of at the same time, due to what she knows about Bodie’s past and how it intersects with her own feelings of wrongdoing in her own life.

Elisa Dane has shown, through ‘Crushed,’ how first impressions are not always right, life is not always fair, and karma sometimes comes at you when you least expect it. ‘Crushed’ has a little bit of everything a contemporary young adult novel needs – crushes, relationships, parties, conflicts, football, and so much more. Definitely a novel worth checking out.

You can find ‘Crushed’ by Elisa Dane here.

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‘City of Grit and Gold’ by Maud Macrory Powell Book Review

‘City of Grit and Gold’ by Maud Macrory Powell offers a glimpse into the lives of those who came from the old country, through the lens of historical fiction. Even though the main characters are Jewish, the story could easily have been about anyone coming from a faraway place and trying to make it in America.

Main character Addie can be easily related to by anyone who has ever felt somewhat on the outskirts of his or her family. She watches as her Uncle Chaim gets involved with protesters who are fighting for a better working wage, while her mother works to keep the household running and her father and another uncle run a hat shop as the family business. Her siblings, having come from the old country as young children, don’t feel the same sense of obligation to their father’s old world values as he does, however. Her older brother has differing political views and seems taken with the law, while her older sister, much in the tradition of ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ considers leaving with a boy she has met to start a new life away from her family.

Addie’s devotion to her various family members and desire to see everyone happy and healthy, while sickness weighs upon one of her cousins and countless others she comes upon in her travels through the streets of Chicago, is the crux of this novel. There were scenes that could have been explored further, but Powell’s writing style brings the characters’ personalities and thought processes to the forefront, providing ample opportunities for readers to connect with the past while feeling that the issues Addie and her family are facing could also be relevant currently.

‘City of Grit and Gold’ is a worthwhile read that sheds light on how purpose and dedication to a cause, whether for one’s own family or others, can tear people apart yet at the same time bring them together. With Chicago as a backdrop, Addie and her family and friends show how big city life, while seemingly enticing, can bring with it huge changes that some may not be prepared for, while others are ready and willing to weather any trouble for the chance at a better life for their children and their children’s children.

You can find ‘City of Grit and Gold’ by Maud Macrory Powell here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

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‘The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors’ by Drew Daywalt Book Review

‘The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors,’ written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Adam Rex, is an enjoyable play on the game of rock, paper, scissors. The rock, the paper, and the scissors, all coming from different parts of the house, both inside and outside, all feel that nothing is challenging them. So they seek out anything that will be able to defeat them. It is interesting that their goal in the story is defeat, but it truly shows how not everything is necessarily as it seems. When anyone plays a game of rock, paper, scissors, they most likely want to win, and it is doubtful that they ever are happy about losing. Yet this is what each of the items wants – to feel the pain of loss so they will understand and be able to empathize with all that they have conquered before.

Even though the plot is interesting and stems from a refreshing and unique viewpoint, infusing a regularly played game with a fun backstory, the story often went on too long in parts. It could have been pared down a bit to make it a little easier for kids to engage with since it would have been quicker to read.

Adam Rex’s illustrations showcase the strengths of each of the three main characters and permeate the text of the story with more meaning as readers see the truth behind each character’s thoughts and actions.

Much like Jon Scieszka’s ‘The True Story of the Three Little Pigs,’ the story shows a different side of what everyone thought could only be thought of in one way and turns it on its head. It can open up some thought-provoking dialogue about understanding different perspectives among those who read it.

You can find ‘The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors’ by Drew Daywalt here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

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‘Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow’s Diary’ by Emma Chastain Book Review

‘Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow’s Diary’ by Emma Chastain had its moments. Main character Chloe is starting her freshman year of high school and is determined to make a splash. Even before she sets foot in school on the first day, she meets incoming senior Mac Brody, with whom she falls head over heels into a crush. It doesn’t seem to matter to her that he’s dating the most beautiful senior girl. Chloe seems to think she has a shot, and Mac doesn’t deter her from believing this, as he makes more-than-friendly remarks to her whenever he sees her.

Despite Chloe seemingly having a good start to freshman year with the above facts, she isn’t having the easiest time with her home life. Her mom has basically abandoned her and her father, moving to Mexico to work on her novel. She says she’ll come home, and stops back in town once in a while, but she keeps Chloe’s delusions of her return to normalcy and suburbia up by never telling her that she truly doesn’t have plans to come back, at least not in the same family-friendly capacity as before. Chloe often takes this out on her father, figuring that he is the reason behind it all. Her meanness toward him and rejection of all things “right” and “proper” by going against the grain much like her mother does, make her sometimes seem the naive, misunderstood girl, and other times the girl who gets what is clearly coming to her.

Many of the details of Chloe’s exploits in the story seemed too old for her. This isn’t to say that freshman girls who are fourteen and fifteen years old don’t have issues relating to sex, alcohol, and seniors who want to make their lives miserable, but she seemed very caught up in issues that seemed far too old for her since she started out the story not seeming nearly as mature as the progression of her storyline. Even her best friend, who was a devout church-goer and seemed to not like Chloe’s chosen path for freshman year, found herself getting mixed up in issues that seemed older than the way her character was written. Maybe some of this was meant to showcase Chloe’s clear naivete to all of the senior exploits that she found herself dealing with, but it sometimes seemed too much for her young age.

All in all, Chastain has written a story that is interesting and relevant in this day and age. However, avid readers of young adult novels may find themselves thinking that the plot could have been made much more realistic based on Chloe’s age. Or, they may consider the idea that if Chloe’s past had been explored more, including who she was and how she acted in middle school, her issues may not have seemed so out of the ordinary for her.

You can find ‘Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow’s Diary’ by Emma Chastain here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

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‘My Senior Year of Awesome’ by Jennifer DiGiovanni Book Review

‘My Senior Year of Awesome’ by Jennifer DiGiovanni is a fun, entertaining story about main character Sadie and the issues she faces – or feels she faces – when she’s voted most likely to marry Andy Kosolowski. Not the coolest guy in school, everyone thought Andy was destined to win Most Likely to Succeed, raising Sadie’s suspicions that he had something to do with rigging the vote to get her attention.

Sadie would much rather have the attention of Dominic, a good-looking – but not quite as smart – guy who starts paying her some attention when they are paired together as lab partners. Along with her best friend, Jana, Sadie makes a list of some of the items they want to check off of what can only be called their high school “bucket list,” and they proceed to work through them one by one. High school didn’t seem so exciting until they find themselves embroiled in issues beyond what they could have expected. From taking on roles in the school play to trying to snag two guys to kiss in one night, Sadie and Jana explore high school in a way they never have, and not always with the best results. When Andy finds out about their list of things to do and sees how he fits into it all, Sadie finds she has some explaining to do. She never thought she’d have to explain herself to him, especially since she never even found him attractive, but when circumstances change, life – and the decisions she has started to make regarding hers – starts getting in her way.

DiGiovanni has captured a slice of high school life that is all too true. Circumstances can change at a moment’s notice, crushes can come out of nowhere, parents can sometimes seem more childlike than their own kids, and life can throw you for a loop, but high school is high school, and Sadie and Jana, in trying to make the most of it, come upon some much needed perspective about their own lives and how to handle them going forward.

Fans of contemporary romance will really enjoy ‘My Senior Year of Awesome’ by Jennifer DiGiovanni. She keeps the pages turning with a creative and sweet storyline that reflects so much of what high school can be about when you’re stuck in the middle of it.

You can find ‘My Senior Year of Awesome’ by Jennifer DiGiovanni here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

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