Tag Archives: YALSA

before I let go by Marieke Nijkamp

2 Jul

before I let go

By: Marieke Nijkamp

Publisher: Sourcefire Books

Publication Date: 2018

Corey and Kyra are best friends in the very small town of Lost Creek, Alaska, pop. 246.  Corey’s mom moves the family to Winnipeg and days before she comes back to see her best friend, Kyra is dead.  It seems impossible for the bright, bipolar friend to be gone and Corey keeps her plane reservation and flies to Lost.  Gone just a few months, Lost is different.  Instead of the social outcast that Kyra had always been, Corey finds her honored.  Over and over Corey is told that she’s an outsider and that Kyra was loved by Lost.  Corey can’t believe that Kyra would be loved by everyone and she sets out to investigate her friend’s “murder”.

This is an incredible psychological thriller that will take you on a trip.  What really happened to Kyra? Who is to blame and why is Corey suddenly an outsider in this small community.  Kyra paints during her manic depression periods and then tears them up.  But suddenly her pictures are everywhere.  Will Corey find the truth?  Will anyone believe her?  Or will Kyra’s picture of her inside a burning building be a real prophecy?   No matter what anyone says, Kyra didn’t survive her town. “We call them hero days,” Kyra said, “because that is when we fight fear itself. And we win.”

The story bounces from the moment to any period in the last two years.  The girls conversations bounce to the action of the moment.  The story races along, back and forth in time, trying to give glimpses of what happened to Kyra and what danger Corey is in.

Highly recommended: Grades 8 & up.


When – Murder, Mystery, Thriller

4 Feb


When by Victoria Laurie

Publisher: Hyperion
Copyright: 2015

Before Maddie knew what numbers were, she saw the little squiggles on everyone’s forehead.  At the age of 6, when Maddie’s father (9-23-2004) is killed, she learns that the numbers are the death date of each person.  She doesn’t even have to see the person; just see a close-up photo and she knows the day they will (or did) die.

At 16, Maddie is an “A” student living with her alcoholic mother and trying to survive high school.  She keeps her head down and hangs with her best friend, Stubs.  To make a little extra money, she “reads” peoples’ death date.  She sees a photo of a child about to die and tries to warn his mother.  That’s when the story really takes off.

This is a murder mystery with accusations and arrests of people close to Maddie.  How can she possibly help?  All she can see is a number.  And all the FBI can see is a girl who seems to know all the victims. Can Maddie make a difference or will she be swept along by events?  The possibilities are unraveled and all that’s left is a thriller ending.  After the race to the finish, my favorite scene is the one in the next to last chapter with Mario.  After all, we can all make a difference in each other’s lives.

This book is a nominee of the 2016-2017 Georgia Peach Book awards.  This lists also serves as the high school Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl books.

Highly Recommended: Grades 7 & up

Flying Lessons

29 Jan

24561496Flying Lessons and Other Stories

Edited by: Ellen Oh
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Compilation Copyright 2017 by We Need Diverse Books

How often do you actually stop and read the book’s Forward first?  Sometimes I do but often I may or may not come back to it.  How much does it really add, when I just want to dive into the book?!  But for some reason, maybe because it was short or maybe because it started with “Dear Reader,” I started with the Forward that editor Ellen Oh wrote.  In two short pages, I saw her with a mangy kitten and, … well, you read it.  Suffice it to say that this short little story set the tone for me.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories visits little pockets of society or groups and shares a piece of the American pie.  Matt de la Pena, Newberry award winning author, tells the story of a young man wanting to play basketball at the highest levels. And learning to listen to advice that a quiet man gives.  I know Tim Federle’s Secret Samantha personally. And, I certainly know the feeling of sneaking into the library to get away from life.

At the ALA Midwinter Convention in Atlanta, I heard several of the authors talk about this book.  I chanted a Choctaw phrase with the rest of the audience.  I knew that the organization We Need Diverse Books was behind this anthology, but I didn’t really know what that meant.  Apparently it means that there are many, many stories out there to tell and listen to and to share.  After all, we all need something to look forward to.

Recommended: Grades 4 & up


Siren by Kiera Cass

17 Jun

thesirenbykieracassThe Siren

By Kiera Cass

Publication: iUniverse (July 2009), re-released by HarperTeen January, 2016

Having just genre-fied my library, I can say that this story is unequivocally a “Romance”. (sigh)  And as all Romance stories goes, there’s a problem.

Kahlen was supposed to have drowned with her family.  Instead, the Ocean offered her a choice.  Sing ships to their deaths as a Siren for 100 years and then she could live again.  The Sirens don’t live on the ocean but as part of society.  They can meet people but must be utterly silent.  Their voices kill.

Then Kahlen met Akinli.  They shouldn’t have connected but they did.  They can never be together, but they may die staying apart.

I listened to the audiobook read by Arielle DeLisle and enjoyed it immensely.  I cried with the characters.  This is evocative of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid (not the Disney version).  However, the reality is that I was a little annoyed with someone who had lived for over 80 years to be focused only on being a wife.  I had hoped that she would develop other interests.  Still, Kahlen brings a child-like innocence to the story and only really begins to mature as a woman when she meets Akinli.  Some wonder why meeting someone so briefly would hold her heart, but that’s the magic of folktales and fairy tales.  “And they lived happily ever after” is the goal.

Recommended: Grades 7 & up


Demon Princess by Kassandra Lynn

28 Feb

demonprincessDemon Princess
By Kassandra Lynn

Series: Demon Kingdom Fairy Tales
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: December 21, 2015

Dad’s missing. Adriana is about to be crowned.  She’s the Demon Princess, raised in royalty, expecting to be obeyed. Then a man of Savior Blood calls her as his Summon Beast.  Adriana, a princess and a demon, bound to young lout to serve him.

Even though her body obeys his commands, Adriana is still the princess, now in hiding.  Aldric’s commands to help someone force her to help but Adriana can still think and twist the commands to cause a little havoc herself. She wisely decides she does not want to share who or what she is to a person that treats her worse than a servant.  But Aldric’s cousin and roommate, Keldrin, sees her as a person.  He is perhaps the only one to do so but he is one of the strongest of the Savior Blood.  And Savior Blood is the mortal enemy of demons.

Adriana is pushed to hide who she is while searching for a way to break the bond that holds her to Aldric.  At the same time, she and Keldrin become closer but, like Romeo and Juliet, it is not meant to be.  Will Keldrin find out what she is?  Will it matter?

The book was fun, face-paced but the key is the voice of Adriana who is always herself.  She doesn’t bend and she doesn’t break but she’s not evil throughout.  So what is she really?

Recommended: Grades 6 & up

(Received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review.)


God Is in the Pancakes by Robin Epstein

18 Feb

godisinthepancakesGod Is in the Pancakes
By: Robin Epstein

Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: May, 2010

Audio Book: Listening Library

Ready for a new audio book and I randomly choose this from the Library’s Overdrive system.  The narrator was a little high pitched and I worried that I wouldn’t get into the book or the various voices wouldn’t be distinguished.  But, the narrator handled all that and more.

15 year old Grace is dealing with feelings towards her best friend, Eric.  Her father left almost a year before, her mother is still mad and her sister is dating a creep.  But her part-time job helping at the local nursing home brings her to Mr. Sands.  Mr. Sands is funny, sarcastic, intelligent and dying horribly.  When he asks Grace to help him die painlessly, Grace faces the hardest issue of her life.  And her decision may surprise you.

The book is real and feels like a true teenager decision.

Recommend: Grades 8 & up


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

30 Sep

AriDanteAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers;
Published: February 2012

Audio Book Published: April 2013

Since starting to work south of the city, it is my preferred choice to listen to an audio book during the drive.  In fact, I usually catch up on a favored murder mystery in the car.  It takes about 2 to 3 weeks of listening during the morning and afternoon commute only to hear a book.  And, I rarely listen to a book I’ve read on paper.  It’s a quirk, but it’s my quirk.

When I couldn’t get the author I wanted, I searched the library’s Overdrive for another book.  I have no idea why I choose this one.  I have no idea why I started to listen, but I can tell you why I kept listening.  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was like unraveling a lovely poem.  The slow, steady growth of the friendship between two boys was touching.  Mix it with literary references that made me want to stop the car and look them up and you have a good story.

Aristotle is an isolated 15 year old boy.  Not completely friendless, but solitary.  On a slow summer’s day, he meets Dante, an irrepressible young man with an outgoing way and fearlessness towards life.  Or so it seems to Ari.  The story extends over the summer with a scary accident, the following school year and the following summer with a scary attack as the boys experiment with life – but not too harshly because as Dante says “we’re really good guys.”  Ari struggles to be 15 and then 16.  He wants to understand his family, his missing brother, and why he is the way he is. Dante shares his secret – he is attracted to other boys.  Ari’s fine with Dante’s announcement, but it doesn’t affect him.  Or does it?

I didn’t really pay attention to the narrator at first, except that his voice was very familiar.  Then I looked it up.  Lin-Manual Miranda of the Broadway hit “In the Heights”.  If you have ever enjoyed an audio book, or never enjoyed one, try this.  The combination of the story, the words and the narrator are irresistible.

Recommended: Grades 9 & up

Note:  I remember listening and wondering if my 15 year old son would enjoy this book.  Then afraid he’d think I was critiquing his life or sexuality if I suggested it.  Then thinking I was just going to get the book and hand it to him anyway simply because he would enjoy a well-written book.  When I finished listening, I was picking up carpool and decided to return the book which is always an event for me with Overdrive.  As I fumbled with my phone trying to return it, my son arrived at carpool and glanced over to see what I had been listening to.  He smiled and said:”That was a good book.  Did you like it?”  “When did you read it?”  “At the start of the summer – it was really good.” Yes, it is.