‘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*

‘Faded’ by Melanie Hooyenga Book Review

‘Faded’ by Melanie Hooyenga is the third installment in her ‘Flicker Effect’ series. It is not always true that a series can get better with each new book, but it is certainly true of Hooyenga’s writing. The main plot point in ‘Faded’ is the same as in ‘Flicker’ and ‘Fracture’ – main character Biz has the ability to time travel, or “flicker,” as she calls it, and she has learned that it can come at a cost, despite also sometimes being a saving grace.

Having been unable to save someone close to her in the second book, ‘Fracture,’ after several flickering attempts to do so, she tries to come to terms with the idea that everything happens for a reason. Determining that she should be just like everyone else who has to live with the consequences of their actions, she finds herself smack dab in the middle of a difficult situation. She has been caught drunk driving and taken in by the police. This is due to her flickering, but she can’t tell anyone. Besides her parents, ex-boyfriend, best friend, and doctor, no one knows. Her wariness about stopping everything is compounded by some cryptic e-mails coming her way, claiming to know about her ability. Even though these e-mails don’t say anything she doesn’t know, Biz doesn’t like the idea that someone has power over her to share her life’s details without her permission.

She wonders whether her doctor, Martinez, is behind it all. She internally questions whether her ex-boyfriend and potential reignited love interest, Cameron, could have anything to do with it, but she continually settles back on Martinez as being the likely candidate for double-crossing her. She also has to deal with the trial of Mr. Turner, her former photojournalism teacher, who was arrested in the first book, ‘Flicker,’ for kidnapping and holding at least a couple of girls, including Cameron’s sister, Katie, for many years. He had also tried to kidnap Biz, but since she flickered while he was doing it, he has no memory of it. She, however, is stuck with the thought of him doing so, and when the trial comes later in this novel, readers may find themselves feeling right there in the thick of it, breathing in and out and hoping that Biz can survive the onslaught of emotions threatening to overcome her.

Much of the novel deals with Biz struggling with her father’s deteriorating health and likely death due to his own flickering over the years. She struggles with how to figure out who is threatening her and how to have relationships with people who don’t understand her true self. At times the story seemed to be a bit repetitious, going over the same ideas about Martinez, Biz’s struggle to figure her life out, etc. Yet readers will find themselves wanting the story to continue, and the 400+ pages of this novel will be a welcome touch, especially since the last several chapters of the novel propel the story along and answer some questions. Even though some answers are still left somewhat up in the air, most readers will be satisfied with how it ends.

Anyone who loves contemporary young adult romance or the idea of time travel will want to go out and pick up this series right away. If more of Biz’s story ever comes out, that will also be a must read!

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel’ by G. Neri Book Review

‘When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel’ by G. Neri, illustrated by David Litchfield, is an artistic and lyrically engaging biographical account of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s wonderful, yet troubled relationship and joint career. It doesn’t steer away from the issues that plagued them and the times they thought they were done with the business. Their story is not so different than others who have come before or after them, but their dedication to the craft and their ability to overcome the odds even when faced with the highest forms of adversity showcases how they refused to let their struggles define them and rather found ways to move past them or overcome and beat them.

From discovering how the two met to learning how the ‘The Sound of Silence’ came to be written, there are so many interesting and engaging facts that even fans of the pair might not necessarily know. It takes a bit to really feel as though one’s teeth are digging into the story, but the illustrations only bring more flavor to the writing, intensifying readers’ understanding of who the men are and how they got not only their start, but the strength to carry on in their careers.

There is always something new to learn, even about those whom you think you already know. ‘When Paul Met Artie’ proves this to be true. Fans of the pair will find the story honest and engaging, while those who are not so aware of who Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are (namely the kids for whom this book is written) will learn something about the past and will hopefully be able to share in the beauty of Simon and Garfunkel’s music. It transcends the time period in which the songs were written, giving way to a whole new generation of listeners who can gain something from their lyrics and strengthen the world as a result.

You can find ‘When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel’ by G. Neri here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Two Truths and a Lie’ by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson Book Review

‘Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries’ by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson is a fun read, chock full of historical and more contemporary facts and fiction. It brings a whole new level of intrigue to the icebreaker game of two truths and a lie, shedding further light on topics that either never fully saw the light of day or were too obscure to bring up in the first place. Some of the stories are a mix of truth and fiction, making it harder to discern how deep the lies run and how believable the truths really are.

Any lover of histories and mysteries, as the subtitle of the book mentions, will be taken in by the stories. Even though some are much more interesting, creative, and meaningful than others, the way in which the book is written will keep anyone reading and guessing. Some truths seem quite far-fetched while some lies will make you question your grasp of fiction.

A fun nonfiction journey through a wide variety of stories, ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ forces readers to engage with research and question anything and everything. For kids, it will teach that not everything can be believed, even if presented as truth, and for adults, it will re-instill the idea that research is a necessity, especially in this day and age when the prevalence of technology and social media can make anything seem true. Finding one’s way around being drawn in by tempting headlines and seemingly true stories can be helpful in so many facets of life.

You can find ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson here .

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Why Can’t I Be You’ by Melissa Walker Book Review

‘Why Can’t I Be You’ by Melissa Walker follows main character Claire through the summer when she turns twelve. Even though life should be pretty easy and fun at such a young age, Claire finds herself troubled by issues of friendship and perception. Having lived her life in a trailer park, she has never thought herself less than anyone else, but with more and more not-so-joking statements coming up from kids she goes to school with, she begins to wonder if her life is not as good or normal as she once thought.

Being pretty young still, and not being able to understand that life doesn’t have to revolve around where someone lives or how much money they have, Claire lashes out at those close to her, not meaning to hurt them, but trying to find meaning for herself in the issues that are plaguing her. Her best girlfriend, Brianna, has also moved into a new and pretty ritzy home with a fancy new pool and lots of other items that Claire can only wish for, and her other best friend, Ronan, who lives in the trailer park with her, isn’t helping to calm her nerves. Rather, he is trying to fit in more with the people who Claire sees as making fun of them, and it makes her question her perception of life in general and what is truly important.

Little does Claire know that not everything is always as it seems, and even those who seem like they have everything together and are living perfect lives are often hiding secrets of their own. Brianna’s cousin, Eden, is one of these seemingly perfect people that everyone has known at some point or another in their lives. She is the type of person who drives others crazy with her confidence and certainty in life, but it is important to remember that it is impossible to ever know someone fully, and judgments make coming to understanding with others harder.

It’s perfectly normal to wish to be someone else once in a while. Life often seems so much easier from someone else’s perspective, hence the “grass is always greener on the other side” phrase. ‘Why Can’t I Be You’ implores readers to better understand how to cope with judgment and perception, and learn how to be happy with life as it is, since everyone’s happiness is entirely subjective and dependent on any number of factors. It will help readers be more thoroughly sensitive to not only others, but to their own individual situations.

You can find ‘Why Can’t I Be You’ by Melissa Walker here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Listen to Your Heart’ by Kasie West Book Review

‘Listen to Your Heart’ by Kasie West will draw you in and make you dread the pull of sleep if you are reading late at night. Each chapter transitions nicely into the next, weaving the story together and making it so readers feel a strong connection with the characters and their troubles. The main plot device of a podcast that the teens in the story are putting on in which they dole out advice to callers about everything from homework to their love lives makes the story all that much more intriguing.

Even though some of the story was predictable, it doesn’t take away from wanting to know how it will all play out. Kate and her best friend, Alana, are two of the main characters, along with Alana’s crush, Diego, and enemy turned quasi-friend (dependent on if Kate feels he can be trusted), Frank. Added in for good measure, and realistically so, are Kate’s brother, Max, and her cousin, Liza. Each character has his or her own issues that play a role in the overarching storyline, and which add interest and development to each and every page.

High school is a difficult world to live in, and when the podcast offers to give advice, callers and e-mailers alike are not hesitant to try it out and see if their problems can be solved, even if by some non-professionals. Kate finds herself getting more and more comfortable in the role of host that she feels she has been saddled with at the beginning of the year, while that level of comfort brings her to the forefront of the school, making everyone think she knows what she’s talking about, even if she feels her own life is sometimes in shambles and she doesn’t know what to make of it. Along with Alana and the rest of her friends, she finds that sometimes truth is subjective, and those shades of grey can lend themselves to new and exciting opportunities that she would never have even thought to afford herself otherwise.

A story of love lost and gained, truth discovered, and advice proposed, ‘Listen to Your Heart’ is a definite novel to add to every contemporary romance lover’s to-be-read list this summer! Anyone who hasn’t read Kasie West before will find themselves eagerly seeking out the other novels she has published. The search is most definitely worth it!

You can find ‘Listen to Your Heart’ by Kasie West here. It releases on May 29, 2018.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Gaby, Lost and Found’ by Angela Cervantes Book Review

‘Gaby, Lost and Found’ by Angela Cervantes explores some tough themes. As though the illegal immigration and forced deportation of her mother, along with her semi-absent father, isn’t enough, Gaby is forced to deal with a couple of school bullies and the gnawing feeling that since she has been left basically alone, she cannot bear to let anyone else – person or animal – feel the same. Gaby’s love of animals takes up the vast majority of the book, as she volunteers with her classmates at an animal shelter, penning notes to help promote the adoption of each furry friend.

Gaby is met with resistance at parts, as she tries to save one particular cat’s life rather than see it get returned to uncaring owners, as well as when she tries to make sense of where her mother is and why she’s there, and no one is able to make her feel better about the situation. She realizes that she has unfortunately found herself unsure of where or to whom to turn as her mother fights to find a way to return to the United States from Honduras.

The only “family” Gaby has outside of her mother and father come in the form of her best friend, Alma, and Alma’s family. There is a support system at work in Gaby’s community, but Alma is truly her best friend, standing up for and by Gaby at most every turn.

In ‘Gaby, Lost and Found,’ Angela Cervantes sheds light on some topics that often don’t get too much press, at least not in the form of fiction books. The writing is young, but the book is written for young people, as it appeals to fourth to seventh graders, so it works well. Young readers who check out this book will be able to see strength, courage, uncertainty, kindness, and truth, among other personality traits, in the characters of the book. Since these are traits that all kids (and adults, for that matter) know well, they will find a stronger connection with the storyline as a result.

You can find ‘Gaby, Lost and Found’ by Angela Cervantes here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘When I Grow Up’ by Tim Minchin Book Review

‘When I Grow Up’ by Tim Minchin, and illustrated by Steve Antony, is a fanciful story about the excitement of considering what to be as a grown-up. It not only considers more academically-oriented ideas such as being smart enough to answer all types of questions, but also the more innocent and endearing thoughts of kids who say and think the darndest things, such as being able to eat sweets all of the time, while going to bed as late as one would like. The perspective is endearing, in that it truly shows how children think and what they consider to be the most important aspects of childhood that will clearly pave the way to adulthood.

It would have been nice to see more of the types of careers kids want to be when they grow up, since a lot of kids tend to say they want to be firefighters or teachers or gymnasts, for example. These are all also the thoughts of children, so even a slight focus on each of these ideas, from the same perspective of being a child and how childhood injects more fun into careers, would have been nice. However, the premise of ‘When I Grow Up’ will resonate with readers young and old, increasing nostalgia for one’s youth and capturing the minds of those still in that age range.

You can find ‘When I Grow Up’ by Tim Minchin here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Tiny Little Rocket’ by Richard Collingridge Book Review

‘Tiny Little Rocket’ by Richard Collingridge immerses young readers into a journey through space. Through a front-row seat in the cockpit, readers have the pleasure of feeling as though they are piloting the ship, getting a bird’s eye view of the stars, and even the planet Mars. Trips near the sun and a large meteor bring the full weight of the space experience front and center, allowing readers/explorers to take the lead and save the day by taking control and leading the rocket (and themselves) to safety.

Fun and eventful, ‘Tiny Little Rocket’ has engaging illustrations, an educational focus, and challenges readers to be the navigator on their own adventure through some of space’s toughest, but most exciting spots.

You can find ‘Tiny Little Rocket’ by Richard Collingridge here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*