Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg

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Elizabeth Eulberg returns to the Beatles-inspired romantic comedy that launched her writing career, with We Can Work It Out, a charming and delightful follow-up to her debut novel, The Lonely Hearts Club.

we can work it outWhen Penny Lane started The Lonely Hearts Club, the goal was simple: to show that girls didn’t need to define themselves by how guys look at them, and didn’t have to value boyfriends over everything else. Penny thought she’d be an outcast for life…but then the club became far more popular than she ever imagined it would be.

But what happens when the girl who never thought she’d date a good guy suddenly finds herself dating a great one? She doesn’t need a boyfriend… but she wants it to work out with this particular boyfriend. And he wants it to work out with her.

Only, things keep getting in the way. Feelings keep getting hurt. Words keep getting misunderstood.

Penny Lane worked hard to declare her independence. Now she needs to figure out what to do with it — and how to balance what she wants with what everyone else wants. In We Can Work It Out, Elizabeth Eulberg returns to the world of her first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club, and gets to the heart of how hard relationships can be… and why they are sometimes worth all the drama and comedy they create.

Eulberg is the queen of the YA rom-com, and We Can Work It Out is a shining example of her mastery of this fun and light-hearted genre. She cleverly tackles the ups and downs of a relationship, spotlighting the struggle I think everyone has: balancing couple-time with friendships, family, and other responsibilities. (Lord knows, it’s something my husband and I are always working on!)

It’s hard to read We Can Work It Out (or any of Eulberg’s books, really) without a smile on your face — even as you cringe through some of Penny’s more embarrassing situations. She remains an instantly likeable, easily-relatable character — one who readers can root for, and learn from.

It was also easy to dive into We Can Work It Out, and reconnect with Penny and her friends — despite several years having passed since first reading The Lonely Hearts Club. Eulberg does an excellent job of orienting readers and making sure no one feels lost — whether you’ve read The Lonely Hearts Club recently, or ages ago.

We Can Work It Out is a delightful charmer that’s not to be missed. Look for it in stores, January 27th.

Book Review: A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd

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Megan Shepherd’s twist on three classic Gothic novels comes to a chilling conclusion with A Cold Legacy, the third and final book in the Madman’s Daughter trilogy.

cold legacyAfter killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.

In book 1 of this series, Shepherd offered her own twist on the classic novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, then followed it up with a twist on Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde. Here, she concludes the trilogy with a daring take on Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein — cleverly weaving together all the elements she has built up into on climactic finale.

A Cold Legacy sees Shepherd both pay tribute to Shelley’s novel, and give it her own unique spin — all while weaving together an ending for her characters, who have survived some insane situations. The madness deepens in A Cold Legacy, as Juliet struggles to decide who she is, and whether or not she can fight fate — or make her own.

As with the other books in this series, Shepherd displays a mastery of the Gothic style — writing clever, modern books that would fit in perfectly with other tomes written during Shelley’s time period. A Cold Legacy is an enticing, new way to approach the Frankenstein story — indeed, teachers would be wise to consider using this book as an entry point for readers hesitant to dive into Shelley’s novel.

A Cold Legacy is in stores January 27th.

Book Review: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

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Though difficult at times to read, Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff is a heartfelt and honest look at the consequences of teen bullying, and the struggle to understand, accept, and move on after a terrible loss.

playlist for the deadA teenage boy tries to understand his best friend’s suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now, Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it’s about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.

Playlist for the Dead is filled with honest rage and despair, and above all, feels terrifyingly naked and real. The emotional depth of this book is so startlingly spot on that it’s the same reason reading it was, at times, difficult — it felt too real.

Falkoff does a brilliant job of capturing Sam’s struggle after his best friend’s suicide: his struggle to understand, accept, and move on. His struggle to balance grief with the possibility of new love and new friendships. His struggle to discover the truth about his late friend’s despair.

Playlist for the Dead is a raw, emotionally powerful coming-of-age story that will give many readers something to cling onto while struggling with their own personal challenges of adolescence. Look for it in stores January 27th.

Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black + Contest

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Today’s book review is part of the official blog tour for The Darkest Part of the Forest. Learn more about the tour & enter to win a finished copy of the book after our review, below!

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darkest part of the forestA seductive, dark fairy tale set in a magical twist on the modern world awaits readers within the pages of The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Even as someone who doesn’t normally like books about fairies (or faeries), I was seduced by Black’s story and swept away into this world where our world meets the magic world. For starters, Black’s writing is just lovely — but isn’t it always? — and so the prose alone is enticing. But then her characters come to life, their personalities brought to life anecdotally as the bigger plot unfolds.

I was continually surprised and enchanted by this book — The Darkest Part of the Forest has plenty of twists and turns, and really gives readers something delightfully surprising and wholly satisfying in ever aspect. Writing, plot, characters, etc. … each element of the book stands up on its own, but when brought together here with Black’s skills, the end result is just a masterpiece.

Look for The Darkest Part of the Forest in stores now.

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Title: THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST
Author: Holly Black
Pub. Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 336
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

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Ten winners will each receive a finished copy of The Darkest Part of the Forest. Enter to win HERE!

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about the authorHolly BlackHolly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. She has been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award and for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of both an Andre Norton Award and a Newbery Honor. Her new books are The Darkest Part of the Forest, a return to faerie fiction, and The Iron Trial, the first book in a middle grade fantasy series, Magisterium, co-authored by Cassandra Clare. Holly currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

Website/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads/Pinterest/Tumblr

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Blog Tour Schedule

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Novel Novice Junior Book Review: Night Owl

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Night Owl by Toni Yuly follows one little baby owl in his late night search for mommy owl. Yuly cleverly offers up various sounds you might encounter late at night — trains, toads, crickets, and more.

night owlThe illustrations are as simple and sweet as the prose — combining to tell a story that is easy for little readers to understand and follow along.

Each new night noise gives kids an opportunity to try making the sounds themselves, as mom or dad read aloud. Ambitious young readers should also be able to give this one a go reading to themselves, too.

Night Owl is in stores January 27th.

Novel Novice Junior Book Review:Winnie: The Remarkable Tale of a Real Bear

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The story of how author A.A. Milne was inspired by his son Christopher’s love of his stuffed toys to write his beloved stories about Winnie the Pooh is well-known. But the story of the real bear that inspired Christopher to name his teddy bear Winnie is less well-known — and that is the story that Sally M. Walker tells in Winnie: The Remarkable Tale of a Real Bear.

winnieWho could care for a bear? When Harry Colebourn saw a baby bear for sale at the train station, he knew he could care for it. Harry was a veterinarian. But he was also a soldier in training for World War I. Harry named the bear Winnie, short for Winnipeg, his company’s home town, and he brought her along to the training camp in England. Winnie followed Harry everywhere and slept under his cot every night. Before long, she became the regiment’s much-loved mascot.But who could care for the bear when Harry had to go to the battleground in France? Harry found just the right place for Winnie while he was away—the London Zoo. There a little boy named Christopher Robin came along and played with Winnie—he could care for this bear too!Sally Walker’s heartwarming story, paired with Jonathan Voss’s evocative illustrations, brings to life the story of the real bear who inspired Winnie the Pooh.

Though Walker does touch on Christopher Robin’s meeting with the bear, and how it later inspired Milne to write the Winnie the Pooh series, she glosses over much of that aspect of the story (wisely so, considering the tumultuous relationship between father and son). But rather she focuses on the charming love between a soldier and a bear.

Winnie really is a remarkable tale — about a bear living with soldiers, and playfully following along during drills and training. It’s heartbreaking when Harry must leave Winnie at the London Zoo — and Jonathan D. Voss’s beautiful illustrations really hammer home the emotions of the story. (The illustrations of Harry and Winnie’s parting at the zoo are particularly strong.)

And though the story is a bittersweet one about a unique little bear, Walker reminds readers that it is also a true story. The book is end-capped with photos of the real Winnie, Harry, and Christopher Robin — as well as a quick real-life summary about the lives of both Winnie and Harry. It’s the perfect book both for existing fans of Winnie the Pooh, and little readers who have yet to discover the adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Winnie: The Remarkable Tale of a Real Bear is in stores January 20th.

Book Review: Hellhole by Gina Damico

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Easily the funniest book I’ve read in ages, Hellhole by Gina Damico is the unlikely story of one teenage boy’s quest to rid himself of a junk food-loving, reality TV-obsessed devil that’s taken up residence in his basement.

hellholeIt’s so funny, in fact, that I must apologize to my husband for waking him up repeatedly by literally laughing out loud while reading Hellhole at night in bed. Sorry, dear.

A devil is a bad influence . . .

There was a time when geeky, squeaky-clean Max Kilgore would never lie or steal or even think about murder. Then he accidentally unearths a devil, and Max’s choices are no longer his own. The big red guy has a penchant for couch surfing and junk food—and you should never underestimate evil on a sugar high.

With the help of Lore, a former goth girl who knows a thing or two about the dark side, Max is racing against the clock to get rid of the houseguest from hell before time, and all the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos this side of the fiery abyss, run out.

It’s an outrageous plot, but Damico makes it work — with equal parts wit and humor. Because despite plenty of drama, romance, and evil, Hellhole really is a funny book with some mildly serious undertones.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a book. And it’s not just humor for humor’s sake — it is a genuinely funny book, so cleverly plotted and woven together that it works on every level. Hellhole is the kind of book that I would recommend it to my husband, my parents, my in-laws, my best friend, my brother. It’s just a fantastic read, with massive appeal.

Damico has written fully-realized characters, set in a cloyingly realistic town — and then tossed in the outrageous plot twist of a devil that loves junk food, video games, and reality TV. It’s insane, but it works and it’s fantastic.

Hellhole is in stores now.

Novel Novice Junior Book Review: Supertruck by Stephen Savage

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A sweet little book about being more than what people expect, and the idea that appearances can be deceiving. Supertruck shows little readers what happens when an everyday garbage truck transforms to save the city from a snowstorm.

supertruckStephan Savage’s story is simple, but sweetly powerful — and his charming illustrations are the perfect emphasis to his message. I love the way he draws the little garbage truck to appear as if he’s wearing glasses, a little homage to Clark Kent that parents will surely appreciate.

Supertruck goes to show that anyone can be “super” — that anyone and everyone has the potential to be a hero; that appearances are not always what they seem; and that no task is unimportant. I loved this sweet book — every word, and every image is perfectly rendered for readers young and old.

Supertruck is in stores tomorrow, January 6th. Here is the official synopsis:

When the city is hit by a colossal snowstorm, only one superhero can save the day. But who is this mysterious hero, and why does he disappear once his job is done? Find out in this snowy tale about a little truck with a very big job, the second of Steve Savage’s vehicle-based picture books.

Book Review: Save Me by Jenny Elliott

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Swoon-worthy seaside seduction and magic aplenty abound within the pages of Save Me by Jenny Elliot, an addictive paranormal romance read from the new Swoon Reads imprint at Macmillan.

save meDebut-novelist Jenny Elliott’s thrilling romance, chosen by readers, writers, and publishers for the first list in the new Swoon Reads imprint, pours on the tension and danger in an addictive combination that will keep you turning pages!

Something strange is going on in the tiny coastal town of Liberty, Oregon. Cara has never seen a whale swim close enough for her to touch it—let alone knock her into the freezing water. Fortunately, cute newcomer David is there to save her, and the rescue leads to a bond deeper than Cara ever imagined.

But then she learns something about David that changes everything, and Cara is devastated. She turns to her best friend for support, but Rachel has changed. She’s suddenly into witchcraft, and is becoming dangerously obsessed with her new boyfriend….

Cara has lost her best friend, discovered that her soul mate is off limits, and has attracted the attention of a stalker. But she’s not completely alone. Her mysterious, gorgeous new friend Garren is there to support her. But is Garren possibly too perfect?

Something about this book was so addictive. Perhaps it is the smart, sexy combination of a forbidden romance with enchanting magic. The gloomy Oregon seaside setting didn’t hurt, either — and being from Oregon myself, I can safely say that Elliot accurately describes the gloomy, overcast days of beaches in the Pacific Northwest. It’s such a moody location already — setting a romance mixed with magic and whales in this location was just a brilliant move.

I was instantly sucked into this setting, and Cara’s world of whale-watching. When the romance began, I was eagerly along for the ride — with every unexpected, tumultuous turn. Adding in her best friend’s betrayal, and her new friendship with the mysterious Garren just gave the story even more layers and depth. I was hooked, and couldn’t stop reading until I found out exactly what would ultimately unfold.

Save Me kept me happily on the edge of my seat, and quickly flipping pages to follow the story to its climactic finale. I can’t wait to see what else comes from this wonderful debut author!

Look for Save Me in stores January 6th.

Book Review: Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole

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Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole may be the most exhilarating installment of the Arcana Chronicles to date, with the stakes higher than ever, and Evie’s heart torn between two lovers in one impossible choice.

dead of winterCan Evie convince her rival loves to work together? Their survival depends on it in this third book of #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles, a nonstop action tale of rescue, redemption, and a revenge most wicked.

Heartbreaking decisions
Evie was almost seduced by the life of comfort that Death offered her, until Jack was threatened by two of the most horrific Arcana, The Lovers. She will do anything to save him, even escape Death’s uncanny prison, full of beautiful objects, material comforts and stolen glances from a former love.

Uncertain victory
Despite leaving a part of her heart behind with Death, Evie sets out into a frozen and perilous post-apocalyptic wasteland to meet up with her allies and launch an attack on The Lovers and the vast army they command. Such formidable enemies require a battle plan, and the only way to kill them once and for all may mean Evie, Jack, and Death allying. Evie doesn’t know what will prove more impossible: surviving slavers, plague, Bagmen and other Arcana or convincing Jack and Death to work together.

Two heroes returned
There’s a thin line between love and hate, and Evie just doesn’t know where she stands with either Jack or Death. Will this unlikely trio be able to defeat The Lovers without killing one another first?

There’s nothing like a love triangle in a post-apocalyptic world, amidst a battle between teenagers imbued with magical powers inspired by the Major Arcana of the Tarot. This latest installment of the Arcana Chronicles is bigger and grander than anything that’s come before. With Dead of Winter, Cole’s story takes on an epic scale — and it’s a breathtaking, roller-coaster ride for both the characters and readers alike.

The romantic tension between Evie and her two paramours is palpable — with both Death and Jack offering plenty to entice her heart (and readers’ hearts, too). Cole does an excellent job of deftly balancing the romantic aspect of the story, while still propelling the war between the Arcana forward, along with Evie’s quest to end the cycle once and for all.

Smart, sexy, and un-put-downable … Dead of Winter is in stores January 6th, and should NOT be missed.