‘Choices’ by J.E. Laufer Book Review

‘Choices: The True Story of One Family’s Daring Escape to Freedom’ by J.E. Laufer is a short, yet instantly compelling story. A little more than a decade after the horrific acts of the Holocaust have ravaged innocent families, young mother Kati and her husband, Adolf, come to the conclusion that in order to give their children the life they deserve, free of Communism, they must face their fears and leave the country they call home. As they make plans to escape Budapest, Hungary, they struggle with the very real dilemma of leaving those they love, unsure of whether they will ever see them again. This issue is coupled with their worry about whether or not they should give away the last of their money to a stranger whom they have no choice but to trust with their escape.

The author is the real-life daughter of the main characters. Having been only two years old at the time the book is set, she can only recount the stories she has heard about their harrowing journey to a new life. With the help of family and some kind people who set the trip in motion, Kati and Adolf, along with their children, Judit and Gyorgy, find that there are always those who want to help, despite the terrible discovery only a decade prior that there are plenty of people who would rather do anything but save others from harm.

With the Holocaust eating away at Kati, she determines that life will not end up the same way it did before, when she lost her entire family in the concentration camps. Chock full of emotion and searing memories that are made all the stronger knowing they are true, ‘Choices’ allows readers to share in the escape and feel as though they are there right alongside the family, hoping, wishing, wanting, and longing for what tomorrow will bring.

You can find ‘Choices’ by J.E. Laufer here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

YA Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to the YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! While on this hunt, you will not only get access to exclusive content from each author, but you will also get a clue so you can continue the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt who is on my team (I’m on the PINK TEAM)! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 120 hours (5 days)! Oh, and don’t forget to enter my personal book raffle!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are eight contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! Again, I am a part of the PINK TEAM–but there is also a red team, an orange team, a gold team, a green team, a red team, a blue team, and a purple team for a chance to win completely different sets of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Directions: Later on in this post, you’ll notice that I’ve hidden my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the PINK TEAM, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by OCTOBER 8, 2017, at noon Pacific Time (3pm Eastern Time). Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

SCAVENGER HUNT POST

Today, I am hosting the awesome Ginger Scott on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Ginger is a former journalist and the author of several young and new adult novels, including the award-winning Wild Reckless and the critically acclaimed The Hard Count, a high school love story about seeing people for who they are, not the address they come from or the color of their skin. She lives in Peoria, Arizona with her husband, son, and family of fur babies.

Find out more information by checking out her website or find more about her books here!

You can also check out my (Beth Rodgers’) review of The Hard Count on my blog by clicking here! Additionally, I’ve been privileged enough to read Waiting on the Sidelines – another one of her novels – and you can find that review here!

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

Here is a short blurb about The Hard Count by Ginger Scott:

“Football and private school politics can break the toughest souls. I would know; I’m Reagan Prescott—coach’s daughter, sister to the prodigal son, the perfect family.

Lies.

Nico Medina is the boy from West End. Our worlds are eleven miles apart, and where each is beautiful, the other is ugly.

In our twisted worlds, a boy from West End is the only shining light. And he owns my heart completely.”

Now for a letter from Nico to Reagan, written on the last page of Reagan’s yearbook), part of Ginger Scott’s exclusive content for readers!

____________________________________________________________

Reagan,

I read all of these notes from our classmates in your yearbook and I had to laugh. I wonder how many times, years from now, you’ll crack this thing open and look back fondly on Travis’s very profound “Don’t party too hard!” or Allie Colson’s epic entry: “Reagan, you always seemed so sweet. I wish we had known each other better.”

I don’t want this page to be one that’s easily forgotten. I don’t want you to look back on it and barely feel everything that I know we both feel right now. I want this page to be permanent. I want to be permanent.

You and I spent so many years trying to prove how wrong the other one was. I hate to admit this, or even put it in writing, but there were many times you were in fact…right. I argued anyway, because that’s us, isn’t it? But here, in this permanent page, bound by a permanent memory, from my heart, I would like to tell you about all of the times you weren’t wrong.

You weren’t wrong the day you sat there on the grass to watch me and my friends play a game of football in the dark. And you weren’t wrong to know deep down how badly I wanted someone—anyone—to see me, to think I could be something more, or to ask me if I wanted to be. You weren’t wrong to call me a coward when I was, and you weren’t wrong to convince me I was special. You weren’t wrong to believe in me, or wrong to trust me with your secrets, or to let me into your home and heart. You weren’t wrong to fall, and you weren’t wrong to let me love you so much that I feel it like a brand on the center of my chest whenever I lie awake and think of you. You weren’t wrong about your dreams, and knowing that you’ll be someone amazing. You weren’t wrong at all.

You, Reagan Marie Prescott, are the rightest thing I’ve ever known.

Love,

Nico

P.S.

Have a great summer 😉

____________________________________________________________

Hear the music that inspired The Hard Count here:
https://open.spotify.com/user/thegingerscott/playlist/4PWrShm6QhWHt1ZHsLaISO

And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a total of 20 great books by me, as well as Ginger Scott and so many more fantastic authors! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 25. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the PINK TEAM and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

CONTINUE THE HUNT

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next PINK TEAM author, Katy Upperman!

‘The Anchor Clankers’ by Renee Garrison Book Review

‘The Anchor Clankers’ by Renee Garrison has an interesting premise. The main character, Suzette, is shuttled around with her parents as her father moves from job to job. His current job placement is at a boys’ naval academy in Florida, outside of Orlando. Life is not necessarily easy for Suzette, but coupling her recent move with her time living among all boys as she starts her freshman year of high school is not making her life any simpler. Even though she goes to school off campus and has some friends of her own that she makes while there, she is still a part of the academy, as she joins the cheerleading team and befriends many of the boys.

The historical context adds depth to the plot, as the story is set around the time that Disneyworld was being built. This added a healthy dose of interest, as it showed how the issues that teens deal with nowadays were dealt with in the late 1960s and early 1970s. From drinking to worrying about the romantic implications of the drive-in to teen pregnancy, Renee Garrison touches on a variety of topics that are still relevant in teen life today. It helps today’s teens see that they are not alone, and that life occurred before them and will continue to do so once they become adults. It was also fun to learn that the author herself grew up in the same way as Suzette, moving every few years and living in the Sanford Naval Academy with her parents when her dad took a job there. This was a welcome addition, making the story unique.

The storylines would have been better told as a series of short stories, which is the way this book started off before it was published as a novel. There were a lot of separate storylines that did not seem to connect with each other as well as they could have. Learning about each individual character in more depth and detail would increase engagement with the plot. It was sometimes hard to follow who was who and why they mattered from plot point to plot point and character to character. Some of the storylines also felt a bit rushed, as though they came out of nowhere and then were not explained fully enough. Yet, the novel came together, and Suzette learned how friends, boys, parents, and life in general can often get in the way of having a few normal teenage years.

You can find ‘The Anchor Clankers’ by Renee Garrison here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

‘Blue vs. Yellow’ by Tom Sullivan Book Review

‘Blue vs. Yellow’ by Tom Sullivan focused on the creative ways in which those two colors can be used, along with the ways in which they are both similar and different. The give and take between the two colors and how each felt it was best was written in a way that is reminiscent of a sibling rivalry. The colors each feel that they present the best options and have the most to offer. When they end up combined, they realize that there is also much to be enjoyed when they “work” together and turn everything green.

The book presents the idea that even though it may seem there are two sides to something, sometimes a mutual understanding can come about, resulting in a happy medium for everyone. Yet, the end of the book also brings another opinion into the mix, when the color red decides to show up and share everything it offers and why those aspects make it the best one overall. This is quite important, as it shows young readers that despite it sometimes seeming that there are only two options to choose from, or that an issue is “black or white,” there are still shades of gray available. In the case of this book, “black or white” is equal to “blue” and “yellow,” while the shades of gray come in the form of green and red.

An instructive look at what colors offer and what they are capable of, Sullivan has written an interesting story that is good for readers, whether young or older.

You can find ‘Blue vs. Yellow’ by Tom Sullivan here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

‘Nothing’ by Annie Barrows Book Review

‘Nothing’ by Annie Barrows has an intriguing premise. The two girls in the story – Charlotte and Frankie – feel that nothing in their lives ever happens in the way that it does in young adult novels. To prove this, Charlotte begins writing their story. She calls it ‘Nothing’ and writes about their daily lives.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, life begins to change for them in ways that they didn’t foresee. These changes are not necessarily the most obvious at times, but they show that anything can change in a moment and that the unexpected truly can make life worthwhile.

Even though the story was meant to show the normal, everyday lives of two average teenage girls, the story still had moments in which it could have been fleshed out further. For example, some of Charlotte and Frankie’s friends were mentioned here and there, but no emotional connection ever seemed to stem from those mentions. It was realistic that they have other friends, but those friendships should have amounted to more, along with explanations as to the two guys they were semi-interested in at the beginning of the book. Showing how they dealt with those guys as they made plans to move forward with more “real” relationships would have strengthened the story all the more.

From unanticipated kisses to meeting penpals and helping friends and family find and hold on to love, the ‘Nothing’ girls have more going on than they would like, based on their thought that nothing ever happens. Yet it shows how writing down your everyday experiences, whether in book, journal, or some other form can encourage even those people most bored with life to come out of their shell and discover truths that they never saw coming.

You can find ‘Nothing’ by Annie Barrows here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

‘Confiscated’ by Suzanne Kaufman Book Review

‘Confiscated’ by Suzanne Kaufman tells the story of two dinosaur brothers who each want the same toys. When their mother finally gets fed up with their insistence on arguing, she takes all of the toys away. Boredom eventually kicks in, and the brothers realize that they can actually have a good time playing together.

Kaufman does a nice job of showing how kids can generally be – vacillating from one interest to the next, sometimes solely based on what someone else (in this case, a brother) thinks. The way she changes their relationship when they realize they have to rely on each other for a change is quite true to real life and shows how siblings, good friends, etc. can react to similar situations.

Through cute illustrations that showcase the emotions each of the brothers feels as the story goes on, Kaufman captures readers’ attention and subtly instructs children to behave more appropriately and find what can be good even if everything seems to be going wrong.

You can find ‘Confiscated’ by Suzanne Kaufman here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

‘Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes’ by Booki Vivat Book Review

‘Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes’ by Booki Vivat is an adorable, illustrated story that not only proves a fast read, but also a truly enjoyable one. From the accurate and telling illustrations, to main character Abbie Wu’s questioning and uncertain attitude about life in general, Vivat has crafted a story that anyone in middle school and beyond can relate to as they consider their own experiences.

Even though the story would have read well without the illustrations, they are most welcome, as they truly bring additional empathy for the characters and their attitudes within the story. Abbie’s relationship with her family’s cat, her worry over who stole her locker, and her neverending concern about how things will ever work out in her favor make her character jump off of each page.

Anyone who reads ‘Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes’ (the second in the series) and has not yet read ‘Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom’ (the first in the series) will want to grab it as quickly as possible. Vivat’s relatable and focused writing stands out in the world of contemporary realistic fiction. Highly recommended!

You can find ‘Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes’ by Booki Vivat here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘The 12 Dares of Christa’ by Marissa Burt Book Review

‘The 12 Dares of Christa’ by Marissa Burt is a sweet story of friendship, determination, strength, and forgiveness. Main character Christa is taken aback when, as she starts with her yearly Christmas preparations, she finds that her parents are throwing her a pretty large curveball – they’re divorcing, and Christa’s holiday plans are changing for the worse. Now she is forced to travel to Europe for her mother’s play performances without her dad. She blames her mom for the divorce, and this is made all the more of an issue when Christa sees her mother kissing one of her co-stars on the trip.

Christa takes little solace in the fact that she’s in Europe. However, life starts to change a bit for the better when her father takes it upon himself to continue one of the Christmas traditions Christa loves most – their annual scavenger hunt. Since he’s a travel agent and has planned out the itinerary for the kids’ tour during the trip, Christa finds herself smack in the middle of tons of action as she joins forces with friends and frenemies alike, realizing that surprises come in each scavenger hunt package. She starts to see the world more as her father would like her to – as a place capable of providing wonder and happiness, rather than the anger and upset she feels she is warranted to have due to her parents’ divorce.

Friends like Kylie, Colby, Sasha, and others create a truly memorable experience for Christa as she discovers what it means to be herself, despite everyone seemingly throwing their own opinions into the mix. Marissa Burt has crafted a cute and engaging story that showcases some beautiful European sites as well as the courage of a young girl trying to make sense of the world around her when everything seems thrown off its axis.

You can find ‘The 12 Dares of Christa’ by Marissa Burt here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

’11 Before 12′ by Lisa Greenwald Book Review

’11 Before 12′ by Lisa Greenwald will put you right back in that time of your life when everything mattered too much and nothing at all mattered more than your best friend. Kaylan and Arianna find this to be true as they gear up for sixth grade. They are chock full of excitement as they decide to make a list of all of the tasks they want to complete before turning twelve in November. Having their birthdays one day apart has convinced them of the need to plan a joint twelfth birthday party to celebrate their friendship and the new age that will bring them what they consider so much more of out of life.

Instead they find that the list starts to tear them apart. While Kaylan wants to stay true to the list and everything they’ve planned for it, including doing it together, Arianna is more open to bringing other people in and allowing them to be part of what Kaylan considers a super-special best-friends-only listing of tasks for the girls to share. While they do a few items together, they also find that they are finishing some separately. It was nice to understand Kaylan’s point of view throughout the whole story since it is really quite a spot-on indicator of how any girl in her position would feel, worried about losing her best friend, but hopeful that things will eventually work out. However, hearing Arianna’s point of view a bit more throughout would have been helpful. As the novel progresses, we learn more about how she feels about it all, but a dual look at their lives may have enhanced the storytelling a bit. Yet, this was not really an issue.

From Kaylan’s worry over which boy to kiss and how to make a guy friend to Arianna’s new friends, lunch table gossip abounds, and the two friends are left sitting on the sidelines of each other’s lives, waiting to be filled in with the nitty gritty details. Any reader will feel smack dab back in the action of middle school, as Lisa Greenwald creates the questions of how Kaylan and Arianna will move forward, how their troubles will affect their futures, and how family can matter more than a sixth grader believes, especially when on the outs with your best friend forever. A definite must read for any young adult and middle grade novel lovers!

You can find ’11 Before 12′ by Lisa Greenwald here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘It’s Your World’ by Chelsea Clinton Book Review

‘It’s Your World’ by Chelsea Clinton does a nice job of anticipating questions teens (or adults) may have about a wide variety of topics, including, but certainly not limited to, poverty, inequality, illnesses, hunger, and many, many more. It also focuses on routes that will hopefully lead to solutions for these problems. The book adeptly details the connections between various issues and dilemmas throughout the world. One that stands out most is how prevalent the issue of water availability is, and how it intertwines with not only the idea of healthy living, but also with the ability for some to do their work, along with a variety of other connective tissues that truly enhance the conversational storytelling through which Clinton writes the book.

Statistics add substance and deeper meaning throughout. The charts and graphs that are included help highlight the controversies described and make it much easier to see how action and progress are sorely needed in so many cases.

The book, while focused on inspirational and thought-provoking topics, tends to be a bit long in parts. The 400-plus page book would have better served its teen demographic by cutting down on the page count. Even though the information contained is solid, interesting, and worthwhile, and the statistics a welcome addition to showcasing the many troubles throughout the world and who they are most affecting, a shorter length would help make the book even stronger. However, if one is to read this book, they may not be reading it all at once, which is probably a good idea. If one is to read the chapters and excerpts that most intrigue them as a means of identifying and exploring their particular areas of interest, the book will more likely not seem so long, as the conversational style Clinton uses helps the storytelling move along at a fairly good pace. There are just so many topics to get to, and even though Clinton does separate these by parts and chapters and discusses the importance of realizing connections, it still gets too long at times.

All in all, ‘It’s Your World’ will capture the attention and motivational heartstrings of its readers, children and adults alike. It focuses on so much of what is wrong in the world today and how to fix it, through realistic and clear-cut anecdotes and information that will lead readers on the path to finding sustainable solutions.

You can find ‘It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!’ by Chelsea Clinton here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*