The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno

half life of molly pierce

 

You guys… WOW. I was not prepared for this book to suck me in immediately and hold my attention hostage until I’d finished the whole thing.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is told from Molly’s point of view as she tries to make sense of some strange things that have happened to her over the past year, culminating in a tragic motorcycle accident she witnesses and is somehow linked to, though she doesn’t understand how at first. t don’t want to say too much beyond what you can find in the official blurb; part of the fun in this for me was trying to figure out what was going on at the same time Molly was trying to figure it out.

I can tell you, though, that issues of mental health arise in this book. The way Katrina Leno handles these topics left me absolutely speechless – those who have ever struggled with any form of depression and emanational lows will find Molly’s voice both hauntingly real and breathtakingly hopeful.

And then there’s the character of Molly herself… I can’t remember the last time a character’s voice has so vividly popped off the page and lodged itself into my head. The whole book is a fascinating study in characterization and effectively establishing a unique character voice. A quick note here about the voice for parents: there is what I consider a good bit of cussing in this, but it isn’t without reason. Even for me, as a fairly sensitive reader to content and how it will impact teenagers, I wasn’t bothered by it because it served a purpose in highlighting issues Molly dealt with.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is Katrina Leno’s first novel and, frankly, it makes her one to watch. I believe she’ll be hugely successful, and I’m so glad I got to read this! It comes out on July 8th – preorder it now so it’s waiting for you!

Click here to find it on Amazon or find it at your favorite local bookseller!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

 

we were liars

 

Mark my words… this will be the next YA title to take the world by storm, like The Fault In Our Stars did last year. I so hope they make a movie out of this.

All I can really say about this without giving anything away is that it was really, really beautifully written and masterfully crafted. I started this thinking I was getting into a typical summery beach YA title, but what I found was something that consumed my entire Sunday because I just could not put it down. This is the first E. Lockhart title I’ve read, and it has single-handedly turned me into a fan.

The characters are intriguing, and the style with which Lockhart builds this story is effortlessly suspenseful and mysterious.

I can’t even tell you what it reminds me of without getting into spoilers, so I won’t. But you should definitely read it when it comes out next week! Preorder, reserve, send to kindle… whatever. Get it.

With a twist I didn’t see coming, Liars shocked me in the most delightful way… but the best part about that was I could go back and see the clues Lockhart left along the way, and though I never would have seen the end coming, it made perfect sense once I got there.

Veronica Mars – HOW DID I MISS THIS?

veronica mars

Somehow I missed watching ANY Veronica Mars when it actually aired on TV, and it was only after being told last week that I should watch it as research for my book (thanks, Jen) that I signed up for my 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime so I could stream it.

It only took a few minutes of the first episode to reel me in – a smart, witty, gorgeous high school girl working with her PI father to solve both major and minor crimes? Beautiful Southern California setting with clashes between the haves and have-nots? Great supporting characters, including plenty of swoony guys? Perfect. It’s like everything I’d ever want in a YA book series.

The only question now is this: will I be able to finish the series before the movie actually comes out? Let’s hope.

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

the killing woods

I read Stolen, also by Lucy Christopher, a few years ago and loved how it unnerved me. When I requested The Killing Woods on NetGalley, I wasn’t even paying attention to the author’s name and making that connection to Stolen, but I sure made that connection quick when I started reading. Christopher has an uncanny ability to make her reader doubt what we assume to be true. It makes for a wild, psychologically thrilling ride.

In The Killing Woods, we follow Emily and Damon as they try to get to the bottom of who killed Ashlee, Damon’s girlfriend. Emily’s PTSD military father is arrested for the crime, but did he really do it? No one seems to know or be able to remember, and it’s a pretty crazy ride as we go back and forth between Emily and Damon’s POV until the mystery is solved.

I’m recommending this for upper high school and beyond… there’s a ton of drinking/drug use and generally irresponsible behavior, but it’s not portrayed in a positive light at all. In fact, Emily is pretty much the only character who’s actually acting like she has any kind of common sense throughout most of the book. If you can put that stuff aside, though, this is a really well done YA mystery/thriller. It had me on the edge of my seat and a little afraid of the dark while I was reading!

You can find The Killing Woods here on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller.

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

and we stay

I was intrigued by the synopsis for And We Stay immediately – it had a mysterious, almost ghosty feel to it, plus I liked the idea of incorporating Emily Dickinson along with a character named Emily who writes poetry. It’s like an English major and YA fanatic’s dream come true.

There were several things I liked about this story.

One, Emily Beam is an interesting protagonist. In the beginning I almost had a feeling like I couldn’t trust her, but then I figured out she was just as confused as I was. She was clearly trying to get over something tragic, and watching her work through it using her poetry and her blooming friendship with K.T. was fascinating.

That leads me to the poetry. Emily’s poetry really was Dickins-esque. I loved every word related to the two Emilys and the way their poetry was woven into the story. Emily Beam’s poetry grows and develops throughout the novel, and since it’s written in third person instead of first person, the poetry gives us valuable insight into Emily Beam’s thought process. Really, really, superbly, well done.

There’s a great cast of supporting characters here. From Emily Beam’s old English teacher to her ex-boyfriend’s sister to her French teacher, her roommate, and other students at Amherst School for Girls. They’re all believable. Flawed, not stereotypical, and perfect for this story. At several points throughout the story I wanted to find and strangle Emily’s parents, but beyond that, the characters were great.

And what a setting… I mean, you can’t get more fun and sort of creepy than Emily Dickinson’s old stomping grounds. The facts that were woven into this were interesting and added so much to the story.

I also respect the way Jenny Hubbard handled some very heavy topics. From a shooting in a high school library to teen pregnancy to abortion, Hubbard never treats the heavy topics like they’re no big deal. And, as a woman who is whole-heartedly pro-life, I actually appreciate the real, raw, brutally honest way that Hubbard treats abortion. I almost stopped reading when it became clear that Emily Beam had an abortion after Paul died, but I kept reading because of how realistically she portrayed the emotional torment that results from an abortion.

There were a few things that kept me from giving And We Stay my total and complete backing, most of which has to do with personal preference, honestly. For example, I really have a strong preference for first person narratives. I love getting to hear every thought of the protagonist. It makes me feel connected to them in a way that a third person narrative can’t do for me.

Another thing was the quick verb tense shifts. While this led, in part, to the mysterious sort of confusing in a good way feel to the book, Emily’s story would shift from past to present so subtly that you had to really pay attention to make sure you didn’t miss anything important.

Most importantly, while I know and understand that Emily Dickinson’s Christianity remains up for debate based on various poems and letters and statements and actions, I wish Hubbard hadn’t hit the religion so hard in this. It didn’t feel like it was left with a very hopeful tone faith-wise, so I wish it hadn’t been there quite so much. Maybe it hit me more significantly because I’m very sensitive to that, especially in YA titles, but I felt like the whole story would have been even better with less emphasis on the faith crisis, both of Emily Beam and Emily Dickinson.

All of that being said, I really enjoyed And We Stay. Especially for anyone interested in seeing a literary figure like Emily Dickinson explored as the background for a modern day story, I highly recommend this! Find it here on Amazon or at your local retailer.

Also Known As and Going Rogue by Robin Benway

also known as going rogue

I really enjoyed Also Known As earlier in 2013, so when I saw the digital ARC for book 2 pop up on Netgalley I knew I needed to read it. Going Rogue did not disappoint! I will say, though, that if you haven’t read Also Known As, you should definitely read that one first. While Benway does take some time in Going Rogue to recap what happened previously, it’s not really enough to give you the whole feel for the first book.

Maggie is not your typical teenage girl, no matter how much she wants to be, because you just can’t have secret super spy parents and be one of the world’s best safecrackers and consider yourself normal. I appreciate her desire to have a normal life, though, and she gets it to some extent with her best friend, Roux, and her boyfriend, Jesse. It’s just that she also spends hours crammed into tiny crawlspaces in international criminals’ houses. Tiny detail.

What I like about this series is that it’s realistic in its characters, but the circumstances are fantastical. I mean, no… it’s probably not real life-like that these things happen to Maggie and her family and her friends, but their reactions to the situations feel real. That’s what I like in a book – normal people in abnormal circumstances. I like to see how real people react to stuff, and I think there’s a lot here in terms of Maggie’s family and their dedication to doing what’s right. And, side note, I’m also in love with the part of this that takes place in Paris because I want to go live there for a few years!

While the characters are high school aged, this is one I wouldn’t mind seeing in the hands of a middle schooler – fairly clean in the sex and language area. That’s refreshing.

Find both titles at your local bookstore, favorite online retailer, or here at Amazon’s Robin Benway author page.

Sherlock starts tomorrow!!!

I need new Sherlock episodes back in my life! Here’s a fun quiz from Buzzfeed to get us ready.

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Gravediggers by Cindy M. Hogan

Gravediggers

If you’re looking for a suspenseful, creepy mystery with a good dose of romance, then Gravediggers is for you. This story was told from Billy’s point of view, a seventeen year old boy whose father was killed several years previously in a hit and run accident. Billy never really believe it was an accident, though, and has almost given up hope that his father’s killer will ever be found.

Until he finds an old ammo box while digging a grave in the church’s graveyard.

Billy and his friends set off to solve the mystery of his father’s death, and of the other strange things going on in their small Southern town, and the result is a good creeper of a story reminiscent of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for teens.

Find it on Amazon here!

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Friday Favorite: #SherlockLives!

I’m such a fan of this Sherlock series! Great acting, great writing, great all over. Now, I haven’t gotten to level of fandom where I change my twitter name to include the main actor’s and embrace true Benedict Cumberbatch fangirlishness, but you know. It’s just about THAT good.

What fascinates me the most about this is just the simple fact that Sherlock is a 19th century character that’s still one of the most relevant and influential characters in the literary and pop culture worlds. I can’t even imagine what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have to say about Sherlock today. What would it feel like to create a character so lasting? It’s amazing.

And really, for real, I can’t wait for January 1st at 9:00. #SherlockLives!

Drawn by Cecilia Gray

Though most people who know me would probably never suspect me of it, I’m kind of fascinated my graffiti and the whole subculture around it. So, that combined along with the fact that I’ve become a pretty solid fan of Cecilia Gray’s YA work means that I enjoyed Drawn. A lot.

In this title, Sasha is riddled with a unique ability: her voice prompts people to say what they’re actually thinking rather than what they want to say. It seems like that could be fun… but then I think about all the things I think but don’t say out loud, and it’s scary instead. Sasha spends her childhood in and out of foster homes as a result of the chaos this causes in people’s lives, until she’s assigned to work with an FBI agent who takes her in at the age of twelve.

It’s easy to see how Sasha’s human lie detector abilities would be of interest to the FBI, and after successfully working with them for a few years and living with Agent Chelsea Tanner (the closest thing she’s ever had to a mom), Sasha is recruited by the CIA to work with an agent in Brussels. It’s exciting to read – Cecilia’s descriptions and choices of settings for events had me googling images of the city. She made it come alive.

I also really enjoyed the relationships Sasha made in Brussels. She finally finds a good friends, the first one she’s ever really had, in Vivi, and the only chance at romance she’s ever had comes with Sebastian. I was intrigued by the graffiti culture and loved reading the scenes involving the planning and carrying out of each graffiti hit.

The only thing I really wish is that the story had continued more, or that there was a follow up ready to read right now. This felt like the beginning of Sasha’s story; I could easily see a series being centered around her, and I’d hope to see Vivi and Sebastian play main roles in future books!

Find here on Amazon!