Nothing But Sky: A Review

Grace Lafferty began performing stunts as a wing walker with her uncle Warren and his barnstorming team, The Soaring Eagles, when she was thirteen years old. Her uncle didn’t know what to do with her after becoming her guardian when the rest of her family died an outbreak of Spanish Influenza. But even Uncle Warren knows better than to try and keep Grace out of the skies.

Five years later in 1922 Grace fears that the Soaring Eagles will soon be forced out of the sky by bigger teams or stricter air regulations. Determined to keep her chosen family together Grace will do whatever it takes to get to the World Aviation Expo where they can compete to win a lucrative contract with a Hollywood studio.

Throughout her preparations for the Expo Grace fights sabotage attempts from a rival barnstorming team and her growing attraction to new mechanic Henry. Haunted by nightmarish memories from the war and a limp from a battle injury Henry is stoic, professional, and infuriating to Grace who initially distrusts him. When a routine stunt goes wrong Grace wonders if she needs more than raw ambition to plan for her future in Nothing But Sky (2018) by Amy Trueblood.

Trueblood’s historical fiction debut looks at the years immediately following WWI when veterans returning home with flying experience and decommissioned fighter planes gave birth to barnstorming performances.

Grace is an ambitious narrator and daredevil with a singular focus–often to the detriment of the team she is supposedly desperate to keep intact. Henry’s struggle with shell shock makes him one of the most developed characters but it is handled poorly being used repeatedly as a reason for the team to distrust him. The sweetness of his fledgling romance with Grace is overshadowed by these constant doubts and a general lack of nuance in Grace’s worldview.

When Henry becomes the prime suspect for the team’s sabotage it is problematic as it builds to a predictable twist when it comes to the actual culprit. Breakneck stunts and romance lend Nothing Buy Sky high action while also detracting from the rich but often under-developed historical setting.

Possible Pairings: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel, Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein, In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

*A more condensed version of this review appeared as a review in the February 1, 2018 issue of School Library Journal*

The Alpha Bet: A Review

The Alpha Bet by Stephanie HaleSixteen-year-old Grace Kelly Cook is so ready to start college where she can ditch her geeky high school image and finally get away from her overbearing, overprotective, over the top mother. After graduating early and earning a free ride to her dream college, it seems like all of Grace Kelly’s dreams are coming true.

But starting fresh is going to take a lot more than some strategic online searches.

At the behest of her breezy, free spirit roommate, Grace Kelly agrees to rush the Alphas–the elite, friendly sorority that values academics more than good looks. It sounds like a match made in heaven and, much to her surprise, Grace Kelly finds that she’s prepared to do anything it takes to become an Alpha–even if it means telling a major lie and jeopardizing her other friendships.

On top of all that, Grace Kelly will have to complete the Alpha Bet–a secret set of alphabetical tasks–to prove her loyalty to the sisters and her dedication to the sorority. Between being a pledge, college classes, and navigating the murky waters of her first college crush Grace Kelly is in for quite a year in The Alpha Bet (2010) by Stephanie Hale.

The Alpha Bet is a cute book about a girl facing the triple threat of college life, growing up, and understanding her family. All at the same time. While she’s sixteen. That might sound like an unlikely scenario which, basically, sums up the overall feel of the book: improbable.

While Grace Kelly was an adorable heroine, a lot of her personality never felt real. Even the fact that she went by the name “Grace Kelly” seemed odd–why not Grace? Why not Kelly? Why is her nickname when she gets one GK? (The names in the book in general were over the top for reasons that remain unknown.)

The premise was interesting, but a lot of the actual Alpha Bet tasks were glossed over in favor of other aspects of the plot. It would have been fun to know more about all of the tasks, but it was not meant to be. The book also makes a big production of Grace Kelly’s being a science geek only to unceremoniously drop that thread by the end of the story.

While everyone loves a light read with a happy ending, The Alpha Bet was too saccharin and too simple; the “nice” characters were unerringly sweet and could do no wrong while the “bad” characters were awful. Although it was often overly simplified, Hale has created an interesting story that will pique the interest of any readers who find Greek life intriguing.

Exclusive Bonus Content: I entered a sweepstakes on goodreads to win this book not thinking much about it. Much to my surprise, I received an email a few weeks later telling me I had won a copy of the book. It was a lot of fun to win it and receive it in the mail even it, to be fair, I really did not need another book. In the spirit of that moment, I am now giving away the signed copy I received. Visit my post about the giveaway to enter for your chance to win (if I haven’t already scared you off with my middling review).