The Accident Season: A Review

“So let’s raise our glass to the accident season,

To the river beneath us where we sink our souls,

To the bruises and secrets, to the ghosts in the ceiling,

One more drink for the watery road.”

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-DoyleCara is afraid she has no secrets. She is afraid that she isn’t witchy and interesting like her best friend Bea. She is afraid that she’ll never be as in control as her older sister Alice. She is afraid to think too hard about her ex-stepbrother, Sam. Most all of, she is afraid that this accident season is going to be a bad one.

Cara is afraid of her secrets. Every October, Cara’s family falls victim to a slew of accidents. It’s an open secret among their friends and neighbors who ignore the scrapes and bruises or try to find reasonable explanations for the broken bones and deeper hurts.

Cara is afraid of everybody else’s secrets. Everyone in Cara’s family is good at keeping secrets from friends, from each other. They’re good at pretending that the cuts don’t hurt, that the bruises don’t show.

But every accident leaves a mark; every season creates new secrets, new things no one wants to talk about. This season Cara will start to learn why in The Accident Season (2015) by Moïra Fowley-Doyle.

The Accident Season is Fowley-Doyle’s debut novel.

The real power and strength of The Accident Season is in its ambiguity. This is a story about secrets and the lies we tell others (and even ourselves) to keep them. This is a story that explores exactly what it means when there are no easy answers.

The Accident Season is nuanced, optimistic and just a little bit unsettling. In a story filled with secrets and things not said, Cara’s first person narration is taut and keeps up the tension as she and her friends try to learn more about the accident season and their mysterious classmate Elsie.

The Accident Season is an atmospheric and distinctive novel where nothing is exactly what readers first expect. Part ghost story and part mystery, The Accident Season is an aching story about love and loss with elements of sweet romance and sparks of magic. This meditative story about family and the many ways old wounds can heal proves that Fowley-Doyle is an author to watch. The perfect blend of eerie and whimsical. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Sender Unknown by Sallie Lowenstein, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Never Never by Brianna Shrum, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

*A copy this book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2015*

I’ll Give You the Sun: A Review

i'llgiveyouthesunAt thirteen, twins Noah and Jude are close. Their family is whole. Everything seems perfect. From a distance. Close up it’s easy to see that Jude is making bad choices that are pushing her toward a serious fall while Noah is struggling just to keep himself together under the pressure of fitting in with the painfully normal world. Art has always been enough to get Noah through. When he falls hard for the beautiful boy next door, he isn’t sure anything–not even painting–will be enough to make things right again.

At sixteen the twins are barely speaking and nothing is perfect anymore. Noah hides his hurt behind a facade of normalcy that seems to fool everyone but Jude. Jude, meanwhile, is not-so-quietly falling apart trapped on a path she never expected and is not sure she wants.

Both Noah and Jude are haunted by old ghosts and past mistakes. With the help of a curmudgeonly artist and a spectacularly messed-up boy, Jude thinks she can put the pieces of her family back together. Except she only has half of the pieces. It will take both Jude and Noah, together, to make things right in I’ll Give You the Sun (2014) by Jandy Nelson.

I’ll Give You the Sun is Nelson’s second novel. It is the winner of the 2015 Printz Award and the 2015 Stonewall Award.

Nelson delivers one hell of a story in her sophomore novel. I’ll Give You the Sun presents two stories simultaneously in alternating sections (no chapter breaks). Noah begins the novel with his story “The Invisible Museum” when the twins are 13 and on the cusp of some major changes for themselves and their family. Jude handles the latter of of the novel’s plot in “The History of Luck” when the twins are 16 and deeply troubled.

I’ll Give You the Sun has mystery, romance and elements of magic realism. The prose is imbued with an ode to the power of art and creation as well as some deeply powerful ideas about feminism.

The novel moves along with clever intersections between Jude and Noah’s stories. Both Noah and Jude have voices that are breezy and approachable in a way that draws readers immediately into their stories and their lives. Although the two characters often sound very similar in their narrations, there is a fair argument that the similarities are intentional since they are twins. It’s more difficult to explain Noah’s often literary and lyrical voice when he is only thirteen for much of the narrative–something that is balanced out with behavior (from both twins at that age) that is often painfully thoughtless or selfish.

This book isn’t always easy to read. The end of Noah’s story leaves both twins damaged and reeling from a variety of catastrophes. In Jude’s section, they are both hurting and struggling to survive without much hope for anything more until Jude decides to take a chance. I’ll Give You the Sun is at its strongest when these two characters realize they have to take action if they want to thrive.

Nelson’s writing is spectacular making I’ll Give You the Sun a vibrant story about family, recovery, art and love. Not to be missed.

Possible Pairings: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb, Damaged by Amy Reed, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

*A copy this book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2014*

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls: A Review

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn WeingartenJune and Delia used to be friends. Best friends. Even when it felt like their home lives were falling apart, June knew she could count on Delia. She knew their secrets tied them together.

That was a while ago. Over a year. Before June started dating Ryan. Before Delia met Ryan and things got . . . weird.

June hasn’t spoken to Delia since.

Now Delia is dead. Burned to death in her step-father’s shed, they say. Suicide, they say.

June doesn’t believe it.

Certain that Delia was murdered, June sets out to uncover the truth. Instead of easy answers, she finds a complicated  tangle of secrets and lies that will change everything she thought she knew about her best friend in Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls (2015) by Lynn Weingarten.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is Weingarten’s fourth novel. It is a stand-alone title.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is a complicated novel. Weingarten employs varied narrative techniques and format choices throughout to create prose with as many twists as the plot.

Like June herself, readers never know exactly what to expect in this book. The plot is uneasy and often difficult as June unearths raw moments from her past with Delia. This story is partly the postmortem of a friendship with flashbacks and June’s memories detailing how the girls’ friendship began and, later, how it unraveled.

The rest of the novel focuses more closely on June’s investigation of Delia’s death and her increasing questions about what really happened. June is never certain who to trust, lending a sense of uncertainty and unease to a novel where allegiances–and even facts–are constantly shifting.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is a solid thriller with moments of genuine suspense, numerous shocks, and a powerful ending that demands to be discussed at length. A must-read for fans of thrillers in general and readers who like a novel that keeps them guessing.

Possible Pairings: Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, Consent by Nancy Ohlin, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

*A copy this book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2015*

Split Second: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Split Second is the second book in West’s Pivot Point duology which begins with Pivot Point. As such this review contains major spoilers for book one!*

Split Second by Kasie WestEverything changes the moment Addie chose to stay with her mother after her parents’ divorce. Staying on the Compound is familiar. The Compound gives her the support she needs to advance and train her psychic ability to Search different outcomes for every decision she makes. Not to mention it has advanced technology the likes of which the Norm world can’t imagine.

Addie knows she stayed for a reason. Why else would a path where her boyfriend manipulated both Addie and her best friend Laila be the best option? The problem is she still isn’t sure why because she also asked Laila to erase Addie’s memories of the Search.

Laila, meanwhile, knows she can restore Addie’s memories. She just needs to learn how first. She knows Connor–a boy at school known for selling contraband tech–will be able to help. Unfortunately, Laila did not realize that he might be the only guy on the Compound immune to her charms and manipulation tactics.

When Addie goes to Texas to visit her Dad, she expects to have a quiet six weeks of relaxing and solitude. That changes when she meets Trevor who seems achingly familiar even though Addie barely knows him.

Together Addie and Laila have all of the pieces to restore Addie’s memories and unearth a much bigger secret. But only if they figure out how to put all of the information together before it’s too late in Split Second (2014) by Kasie West.

Split Second is the sequel/companion novel to West’s debut novel Pivot Point.

Split Second picks up one week after the events from Pivot Point play out. Given the nature of the stories, Split Second does function in many ways as a standalone however a lot of the emotional resonance will be lost without reading Pivot Point.

While Addie is dealing with the fallout from Duke’s lies and tricks, Laila is grappling with guilt over her (unintentional) role. Laila also has a letter Addie wrote asking her to restore Addie’s lost memories and no idea where to start.

The story unfolds in chapters alternating between Addie and Laila’s first person narration (each labeled with texts written to each other). West handles the overlap and convergence of the two plots expertly to make for one cohesive novel.

After meeting Laila in Pivot Point, it is great to see more of her story in Split Second. Laila is often calculating and even ruthless when it comes to protecting people she cares about. But she is also loyal to a fault with hidden depths. Laila always projects an effortless confidence that is delightful to behold.

While Addie rediscovers Trevor in Texas, Laila is left on the Compound where she finds Connor. Connor’s introspection and calm is a perfect counterpoint to Laila’s bravado and extrovert personality. Both characters have a lot of secrets and make conscious choices in what they present to the world and what they choose to protect. Their changing dynamic adds a great element of both humor and sweetness to Split Second.

Split Second is another fantastic sci-fi adventure complete with not one but two romances. West does a great job bring readers back to Addie and Trevor’s story while also introducing Laila and Connor. Although there are still a lot of questions (and many readers who would love to see more about these characters), Split Second is the perfect conclusion to a delightfully fun series.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Soulprint by Megan Miranda, Fair Coin by E. C. Myers, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Charlie, Presumed Dead: A Review

charliepresumedeadEveryone is going to miss Charlie. He’s young, handsome, rich and charming. A world-traveler who always knows the right thing to say and all the right people. It’s a tragedy when Charlie is presumed dead when his bloody jacket is found at the site of a shocking accident with no trace of a body left behind.

Charlie’s memorial service is filled with mourners despite the short notice–including Lena and Aubrey. Although the two girls have never met, they have one important thing in common: both of them are dating Charlie.

While Aubrey came to the memorial seeking closure and hoping to move on from her tumultuous year as Charlie’s girlfriend, Lena is certain that there is more to Charlie’s disappearance including clues that will lead them both on an international hunt for the truth.

Traveling from Paris to London, Mumbai, Kerala and Bangkok will teach Aubrey and Lena some hard truths about themselves and whether they can trust each other. Their trip will also reveal shocking truths about Charlie that are beyond anything they could have imagined in Charlie, Presumed Dead (2015) by Anne Heltzel.

Charlie, Presumed Dead is Heltzel’s first novel.

Lena and Aubrey are complete opposites with few reasons to trust each other and fewer reasons to like each other. Heltzel’s dual narration allows readers to understand more of each girl’s motivations as well as their secrets. Charlie, Presumed Dead is a tense thriller that will have readers questioning everything.

Charlie, Presumed Dead has a narrow focus on Lena and Aubrey as they unravel Charlie’s lies. What begins as a simple plot expands into a simultaneously creepy and surreal journey as their search is contrasted against vivid international locations inspired by the author’s own travels.

Filled with twists, jaw-dropping shocks and several genuinely scary moments, Charlie, Presumed Dead is a page-turning mystery guaranteed to keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Possible Pairings: Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, After the Kiss by Terra McVoy, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, I am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Loop: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“You can’t change the past. One of those weird temporal loops that couldn’t be explained.”

Loop by Karen AkinsBree Bennis lives in the twenty-third century where, because of a special gene mutation, she can travel anywhere in time. It’s been years since travelers had to hide their unique skills but Bree knows better than most that time travel is still greeted with suspicion and even disdain by those unable to travel.

Bree used to be at the top of all of her classes. Now her biggest talent seems to involve making a mess of things.

After her solo midterm to the twenty-first century goes spectacularly wrong, Bree knows she’s in big trouble. Failing to complete her mission is one thing. Accidentally revealing herself to a boy and sort of taking him hostage? That could get Bree expelled. Or worse.

The only option is to try to sneak back and try to complete her midterm before anyone notices. The only problem is Bree ends up missing her target destination. She finds the boy–Finn who is now three years older and at least three times more attractive–but before she can fix anything Bree is pulled back to her own time. With Finn. Who claims that he and Bree’s future self are . . . dating?

Bree has plenty to do between hiding Finn and not flunking out of school when she learns that a rash of accidents have been taking out time travelers around the school. Turns out the attacks are anything but accidental and with Finn’s help Bree soon realizes she might be the only one able to find the person responsible and stop them before their timeline is irreparably damaged in Loop (2014) by Karen Akins.

Loop is Akins’ first novel and the first half of a duology that completes with Twist.

Loop dives right into the action when Bree’s life goes from bad to worse after everything goes wrong on her midterm. Bree manages to take everything in stride with only a few choice (and possibly made up) swear words to help. As Bree delves deeper into secrets about her own past (and future) she also realizes she might be at the tip of a very big problem–one her future self knew Bree would have to try to solve.

Akins skillfully combines science fiction adventure with a fascinating mystery to create a story that is as original as it is fun. Although some plot points–particularly clues left for Bree–are often obvious, Bree and Finn’s journey as they try to understand what brought them together more than makes up for it.

Bree’s world is filled with casual wonders ranging from automated travel pods to Pegamoos, all of which are brought to life in vivid prose. In a story that literally spans centuries, the world-building to top notch and gives Loop a strong sense of place no matter where or when Bree finds herself.

Bree’s voice is distinct and snappy, making this book conversational and completely fascinating. While the romance in Loop is a big draw, Bree also has a great character arc as she tries to reconcile who she is in her present with who she seems to be in the future. With massive conspiracies, clues left across time, and a displaced romance that is often baffling to Bree, Loop is an action-packed story with humor and excitement.

Possible Pairings: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Soulprint by Megan Miranda, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

The Girl at Midnight: A Review

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa GreyThe Avicen have lived beneath New York City for years. Bird-like creatures with feathers for hair, the Avicen can use scarves and sunglasses to blend in when they have to. The rest of the time magical wards make sure they remain hidden from prying human eyes. Except for Echo–the human pickpocket who considers the Avicen, at least some of them, her family.

Echo is used to fending for herself and she has the fierce, brusque persona to prove it. When she isn’t busy being reckless and stealing things around the world for the thrill of it, she is also extremely loyal.

When word surfaces of a way to end the centuries-long war between the Avicen and their dragon-like enemies the Drakharin, Echo jumps at the chance to help.

Legend suggests that the Firebird is the only thing with the power to end the war. The only problem is no one knows what the Firebird is or where to find it. But if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to enjoy a challenge in The Girl at Midnight (2015) by Melissa Grey.

The Girl at Midnight is Grey’s debut novel and the start to a trilogy.

The Girl at Midnight starts strong with a fantastically intricate world complete with magic, mythical creatures and a conflict that has lasted centuries. Both the Avicen and Drakharin make sense within the story and have complex cultures to match. In fact, the only thing that doesn’t make sense is trying to picture them while reading as imagining feathers as hair continues to be a sticking point.

Unfortunately the characters who populate The Girl at Midnight pale in comparison to the world within the novel. Most of the characters are defined by one carefully chosen trait and little else. Echo is slightly more developed although she too often comes across as a collection of eccentricities and behaviors (between her preoccupation with food, collecting words, hoarding books and throwing out pop culture references with zero context) that never quite rang true. The logistics of Echo’s living unnoticed in a library also begins to fall apart under any kind of scrutiny.

The Girl at Midnight is a decent urban fantasy in places but it also one that will immediately feel familiar to anyone well-read in the genre. Grey’s admirable world building only serves to underscore the predictable, lackluster plot and weak characters. Recommended for readers looking to discover new places (both real and imagined) rather than find their next engrossing read.

Possible Pairings: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor