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Review: Lily, the Brave — Katherine Hodges

 

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Title: Lily, the Brave

Author: Katherine Hodges

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 266

Summary: “Lily has a soft spot for helping people, but is it really worth the risk? Her life was already hard enough after the accident. How can she possibly deal with being a superhero too? Seventeen year old Lily Harrison is given an incredible gift. She doesn’t really want it, but she’s stuck with it. Lily’s best friend convinces her it can be used for the good of mankind, but it only seems to bring her trouble and put everyone around her in danger. Using her gift would force her out of her comfort zone and into the realm of top secret assignments, late night stake outs, and constantly looking over her shoulder. All she wants is to be a normal introverted teenager, hang out with her best friend, crush on a gorgeous guy from a distance, and pass algebra at the end of the semester. Lily would give anything for a normal, quiet, life. One thing is for sure, her life will never be the same again.”

Cover Review: Not everyone likes photography on covers, but I think this one was really well done. I LOVE the font of the title, and having some of the thoughts she hears on the cover is a very interesting concept. Overall, I think it’s a beautiful cover.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. For some reason, I didn’t think I was going to like this book. I’m not exactly sure what made me think that, but I did. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when I was proven totally wrong, because I ended up loving this book. The premise was totally unique, and the story was wonderful! I really wish and hope that there will be a second book coming out, because I would LOVE to read more about these characters and their lives!

Characters: So this was pretty crazy…  I wasn’t sure what to think of the characters at first, but I quickly grew to love them! Each of them underwent a huge amount of character development throughout the book, and they were each a good, well-written character in their own right. When reading this book, I didn’t really feel like any of the characters were relegated to second class roles like “love interest” or “optimistic best friend”, because even though some of them may have had those traits, they were real people, first. Except, obviously, not, you know… real. 

Plot: Now this was the truly crazy bit. This book was a YA spy thriller with a gifted teenager going on top secret missions. There were times I was screaming at the book, laughing out loud, or gasping in shock. And then there was also that time when I got to one of the huge climactic moments of story and just then — my break was over at work and I had to clock back in. Yeah, that wasn’t fun, because then I spent the rest of my ten hour shift anxiously waiting to figure out what happened next. 

Content Advisory: A girl gets pushed down the stairs and is in a coma, scenes of bullying occur, and there is some kissing in the book. There are some relatively intense scenes of stalking and kidnapping that might be too much for some readers. Gunfights and violence occur, but are generally off screen. Overall, it’s a pretty mild and age-appropriate YA novel. 

To Sum It Up: This book was really awesome. Like, I know people (myself definitely included) way over use that word, but I mean it. This book reminded me of the books I used to go to the library, pick off a shelf at random, and then finish by the next morning, back when I was 13 or 14. It’s just one of those genuinely good quality and enjoyable books. I’m really looking forward to the sequel! highly recommend this book to readers 13 and up. 

Review: Edna in the Desert — by Maddy Lederman

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Edna in the Desert

 

Author: Maddy Lederman

Rating:  ★★★★☆ (3.5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Fiction / 184

Summary: “Can a Beverly Hills teen survive without a smart phone, Internet, and TV? Edna will find out.
Edna is thirteen, a precocious troublemaker wreaking havoc at her Beverly Hills school. Her therapist advocates medication, but her parents come up with an alternative cure: Edna will spend the summer in the desert with her grandparents. Their remote cabin is cut off from cell phone service, Internet and television. Edna’s determined to rebel until she meets an older local boy and falls in love for the first time. How can she get to know him from the edge of nowhere?”

Cover Review: Meh. It tells me nothing about the book, and doesn’t really incline me to pick it up. It’s a low-budget graphic design, nothing more. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Weird disclaimer, of sorts. I wrote this review three years ago, but forgot to post it to my blog, so here ya go! Short, but sweet :)

So I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 3.5 stars.
I have a bit of mixed feelings on it. I feel that the story and message of the book came across quite well, however I feel that adding the almost sex scene between a 13 year old and a 17 year old, and the 13 year old’s continued thoughts afterwards, was absolutely 100% unnecessary, and for this reason I will not recommend this book to anyone under 16, even though the rest of the book is very lenient age wise.

Content Advisory: The above mentioned scenes of a sexual nature between a 17 year old and a 13 year old. I read this when I was 16, and there was stuff in it that I hadn’t even heard yet. 

BUT, I did love the writing. The best thing? It was a very fluid easy read, that I could hardly put down! I loved the story, and I loved how it was written, and I loved the morals. They were very prominent, but not slap-you-in-the-face. It was a very thought provoking book, and I really loved it! I’m looking forward to hopefully reading more about Edna in months/years to come! I highly recommend this book, but only to readers 16 and up. 

 

 

Review: Sage Carrington, Eighth Grade Science Sleuth — By Justin Scott Parr

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com

Title: Sage Carrington, Eighth Grade Science Sleuth

Author: Justin Scott Parr

Rating:  ★★★★☆ (3.5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: MG fiction / 216

Summary: Every 12-year-old’s two favorite words: Summer vacation. No cold weather. No school. Just months of free time ahead.

Best friends Sage Carrington and Isabel Flores are making the most of their summer break when they discover an antique treasure map near the Washington Monument. But when faced with difficult clues and a bully in the form of Edwin Hooser, the tween girls must use every bit of imagination, drive, and intellect to outsmart Edwin and decipher the map.

Join Sage and Isabel on a journey through the nation’s capital as they try to solve the puzzle and recover a priceless bounty.”

Cover Review: I adore this cover! Every little thing on it comes straight out of the book, and the artwork is amazing! Fabulous attention to detail. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. As a nineteen year old, I’m not exactly the target audience for this book, but I read it to my little sister, who enjoyed it. I really have nothing against MG books, and I’ve read and enjoyed many of them, even as an adult, but this one just wasn’t really my style. I’d say it’s aimed more at 6-10, then it is at the typical MG age range of 8-12. Even though the protagonist is a 12 year old, I think the book just seems a bit younger than that.

Characters: The characters were well developed, and fun to read. I especially appreciated the real and hard issues that these characters deal with — bullying, divorce, failure, and cancer, to name a few. However, these issues are dealt with in such a way that they aren’t too intense for a middle grade audience. I think this book actually does a fabulous job of showing young children cope with these issues, and perhaps helping readers to find ways to cope with these or similar issues. The camaraderie and friendship between the two leads is beautiful and reminds me of my own childhood best friends.

Plot: The plot felt a bit all over the place at times, but overall, I think it was fast-paced enough to keep little kid’s attention, even if they can’t quite keep track of all the different things going on. Kids will for sure enjoy following Sage as she goes on her treasure hunt and various science-y adventures. 

Content Advisory: It’s a MG novel. A girl almost drowns in a pool, and a girl also gets in a crash during a soapbox car race.  Deals with topics like divorce, cancer, and bullying.

To Sum It Up: I think as an adult, this book is best read with a young child, rather than just alone. Reading it to a child helps you to enjoy and appreciate it for what it is — a fun story of adventure, friendship, and determination aimed at young children. I recommend this book to readers aged 5-10. 

Review: Ambition — By Natalie Keller Reinert

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Ambition (The Eventing Series, #1)

Author: Natalie Keller Reinert

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Equestrian Fiction / 368

Summary“Jules Thornton didn’t come to Ocala to make friends. She came to make a name for herself. Young, determined, and tough as nails, she’s been swapping stable-work for saddle-time since she was a little kid – and it hasn’t always been a fun ride. Forever the struggling rider in a sport for the wealthy, all Jules has on her side is talent and ambition. She’s certain all she needs to succeed are good horses, but will the eventing world agree?

On her own at last, Jules is positive she’s poised to become eventing’s newest star, but soon finds she’s making more enemies than friends in the close-knit equestrian community. Little mistakes cost big — her students are losing faith in her; her owners are starting to pull their horses. And then there’s the small matter of Peter Morrison, the handsome, on-the-rise event rider who keeps showing up when she least expects him.

Jules is convinced that all she needs is good horses — not friends, not romance, not anyone’s nose in her business. But it’s just the beginning of the long, hot, Ocala summer, and as Jules tumbles through the highs and lows of a life with horses, she might find she’ll need help after all to weather the coming storm.

Cover Review: It’s pretty, and it does a good enough job of portraying the book accurately. I think it could greatly benefit from some real artwork, not just an image with text over it, but it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a difficult book for me to review. As you can clearly tell from my five star rating, I really really loved this book. But the protagonist was infuriating, and the love interest was almost unrealistically obsessed with someone who had made it crystal clear that she despised him… But I still loved it. And I even loved the protagonist and the love interest (he wasn’t quite fleshed out enough to be anything more than that right off, unfortunately). They were just infuriating and dumb enough to be realistic, tbh. 

Characters: So I guess I already started into this. Jules had a ridiculously huge victim complex, and was convinced that the ENTIRE world hated her (And if the person in question was rich, then they were basically personally responsible for every single one of her life problems), and as much as that part of her character made me want to talk (scream?) some sense into her, it was still very realistic. I mean, what’s the point of reading a book if you want the characters to be fairytale perfect without any unfair prejudices?  Unless, of course, you’re reading a legit fairytale, and even then, those are darker than we give them credit for.

Aaannd… I’m off topic again. Anyway, I really loved Jules. She was fiercely independent, she was very knowledgeable about horses, and had worked insanely hard to get where she was. She was a beautifully complex and flawed character, and I cannot WAIT to read the second book and get to know her better. Mostly I loved her because of the huge amount of character development she underwent throughout the book. The other characters in the book were all wonderful, as well, adding great depth to the story as a whole. 

Romance: I know I don’t usually have this section in my reviews, but I felt that if I didn’t have it, I would just rant about the strange relationship everywhere else. This is my attempt at some semblance of organization and self-discipline. So, I said above that Pete wasn’t fleshed out enough to constitute a co-starring character in the book, and unfortunately, that was true. He really was just an unusually complex love interest. I really hope he actually becomes a character in his own right in the second book. I really did love his character, though! I thought he was a pretty fabulous person, with amazing potential, and he was pretty fantastic with dealing with crazy-pants Jules. I definitely liked him more than I liked her, hahaha. He was really good at keeping a cool head all the time. I did wonder why he kept pursuing her when she kept telling him she hated him because he was rich / competition / both… But I suppose that’s just how romance novels are written. Once they finally got their act together, I thought the romance was beautiful and fun.

Plot: This was my favorite part of the book. I love love loved it. From the day-to-day drudgery and dangers of horse training and stabling, to the high stress competitive eventing environment, to the devastating natural disasters of Florida — this book had it all, and handled it all in such a way that made me always anxious to flip the next page and figure out what happens next. The plot and story of this book were absolutely PERFECT. The plot is definitely what made this a 5 star book.

Content Advisory: Some minor swearing, some huge and terrifying disasters, but nothing graphic. 

To Sum It Up: Not too long ago, I had sworn off of equestrian fiction entirely. But then something changed — I read Appaloosa Summer, and my hope in equestrian novels was restored. So I was only slightly hesitant about accepting this book, and I loved every single action packed second of it! highly recommend this book to all horse-crazy readers 16 and up!

Review: Unlucky Horseshoe — by Barbara Morgenroth

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Cover image from author, summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Unlucky Horseshoe (Mission Ranch Mystery, #1)

Author: Barbara Morgenroth

Rating:  ★★★★☆ (4 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Adult Mystery / 386

Summary: “When twenty-seven year old fashion designer Berry Lake moves to Mission Ranch to live with her father, the last thing she expects is to be caught up in a murder investigation. Or could the last thing Berry expects be to help her father, Mitch, fend off the local retired ladies who are chasing after him? Or, could the last thing Berry expects be to fall for Sheriff Mark Fernandez who thinks she knows more about the murder than she’s saying?
What Berry really didn’t expect is that once she and her father determine who the murderer is, no one is safe.”

Cover Review: I really love the vibe of this cover! The artwork is cutesy and accurately portrays the contents of the books. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. So, it’s weird. Right after I finished this book, I wrote “really fun read!” and though I still think that’s true, now, a month or so after reading it, I’m feeling a lot more “meh” about the book. Sure, I enjoyed reading it, but I don’t really have much of a desire to ever reread it (maybe that’s just how mystery novels work?). I would probably read a second book, though, if it was written. This was the first adult mystery I’d ever read (I loved Nancy Drew as a kid), and it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I really liked it. 

Characters: I think my favorite part of the book was the protagonist, her father, and her love interest(s?). They were fabulous characters! They were creative, unique, and utterly enjoyable. I loved reading about them, and I loved their dialogue! Some of the other characters (like “the harem”) I found very irritating (albeit painfully realistic, based on my personal life experiences. I suppose I just don’t want to read about people like that for fun, hahaha), and I honestly think it’s those characters that left a bad taste in my mouth about the book as a whole that led to the book losing one star. But looking back, I think the good characters definitely made up for the bad ones. 

Plot: There were plenty of times where I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen — and almost every single time, it turned out that I was very wrong. Which I always love! I love it when a book is unpredictable and exciting. This mystery novel is full of laughs, romance, and adventure. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I really enjoyed the history of The Mission that is the setting of the whole book. Honestly, I think that was probably my second favorite thing about the book.

Content Advisory: Kinda graphic. Lots of death and violence and some implied sexual scenes.

To Sum It Up: I think this was a great book to be my introduction into the world of adult mystery novels — it wasn’t too intense or gross, but it was fun,  original, and unpredictable. I don’t regret reading this book! If you’re looking for a fun mystery to read, then I highly recommend The Unlucky Horseshoe to readers 17 and up.

Review: Join Up — By Tudor Robins

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Join Up (Island Series, #3)

Author: Tudor Robins

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre / Pages: Fiction / 224

Summary: A summer at one of the poshest riding camps in the province. A hundred horses. Rolling hills ribboned with hacking trails and cross-country jumps.

It could be perfect. Unless you’re Lacey Strickland, and you’re leaving Salem, Meg, and Jared behind on the island.

The only thing that isn’t hard to leave is Lacey’s memory of her first kiss, delivered in a spring-scented hayfield, which sizzled, then fizzled into nothing at all.

The other thing making camp less-than-perfect for Lacey? She’s not a cosseted camper, but a staff member – teaching riding lessons from sun-up to sun-down.

In Meg’s first letter to Lacey, she writes: “I bet anything there’s at least one amazing horse waiting for you there. And maybe a new great – if not best – friend.”

Is Meg right? Could Lacey meet a horse she’ll love just as much as Salem? And are there new friends in her future? Maybe even somebody who could give her more than just one kiss in a hayfield?

Cover Review: It’s not the artwork that I really love on covers, but it’s still a beautiful cover. I would love to have this gorgeous book on my shelf.

My Review: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely adore this series. Check out my review of the first book, Appaloosa Summer, and my review of the second book, Wednesday Riders I LOVED the first two books, and the third one did not disappoint!

This series has restored my faith in equestrian fiction. There actually ARE fun, original, quality horse novels out there in the world! The self-publishing world, at least. I think the traditionally published horse books are a lost cause, at this point. Anyway, back to the story. I absolutely loved that Lacey took center stage in this book, and getting a chance to better know a beloved character from the previous books made me incredibly happy! This story is set at a summer camp, and there’s something inherently magical about summer camp stories, and I’m not exactly sure what it is. I suppose I’ve simply watched too many Disney Channel Original Movies.

The romance is adorable and adds some fun drama to this incredible story chock-full of adventure, laughter, and solid horse training advice. I really can’t say enough good things about this book! It was fun to get to see Meg from Lacey’s point of view, and I loved the setting. It was very odd to get off the island, but in a good way. I also liked the larger cast of characters this book had, and the very unique plot. Sure, we’ve all read a million summer camp romance novels, but, as always, Tudor Robins takes a tried and true concept and turns it into something spectacularly original and refreshing.

Content Advisory: There’s one awkward scene that almost goes to the explicit level, but the character’s decide to stop. It was weird, tho. Lots of kissing. 

To Sum It Up: I’m in love with this series. Tudor’s writing style is absolutely magical, and I immediately get drawn into her story of broken hearts, horse training, and new starts. I HIGHLY recommend that you read the other books in the series, but even if you haven’t, I think you would be able to enjoy this one as a stand-alone. I recommend this book for ages 14+.

Review: Channel ’63 — By Bruce Edwards

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Channel ’63 (The Age of Amy, #3)

Author: Bruce Edwards

Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5 of 5)

Genre / Pages: Fiction / 244

Summary: What if you could tune your TV to the year 1963, and watch—live? A new theme park attraction allows visitors to not only observe, but talk with the people of that turbulent decade. For 16-year-old Amy, it’s the perfect escape from her own time, and the hardships of teenage life in the 21st century.

Things get complicated when Amy falls for a teenage boy in the 60s. Trying to build a relationship across time proves maddening, especially when computers bleep any language that might impact the future. Happily, Amy acquires a “magic clicker” which defeats this annoying restriction. But gaining the ability to speak freely comes with a heavy responsibility: Amy now has the power to alter history!

Cover Review: It’s a very simplistic cover, but it’s not awkwardly posed clipart, which is more than you can say for most covers nowadays. I like it!

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Age of Amy is a morality play. A hyperbolic story. A cautionary tale. Everything in it — characters, plot lines, events — is exaggerated to teach a moral. It’s not supposed to be a story where you think “Wow! I really relate to that character and what they’re going through right now!” It’s one of those books that makes you think “Wow. Maybe I should re-evaluate that aspect of my life. …Okay, I’ve thought about it, I probably won’t change anything, but it’s a fun story anyway!” Kinda joking there, but it really does teach important lessons, in a very fun way. 

Personally, I found the endless 60’s references a bit tedious for my tastes. It was clear that the author was reliving his favorite era in the writing of this book. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, write what you know, etc., but it definitely didn’t captivate me, a 21st century teenager. The political agenda in this one wasn’t really my cup of tea, but being politically over-the-top has always been what makes these Age of Amy books so much fun. And this one was a lot of fun! I didn’t like Channel ’63 as much as I liked the first book in the series, Bonehead Bootcamp, and the second book, Thumper Amendment, but it was still an enjoyable read.

Amy is intelligent, rebellious, and fiercely independent. She’s a teenage girl trying to be a grown-up, and doing a pretty good job at it, honestly. Her voice is raw and defiant, and her story is almost inspiring. The only REAL issue I have with this book is the Robert A. Heinlein-esque borderline pedophilic relationship that was referenced but not explicitly stated, at the end of the book… That’s the best way I could describe it without any major spoilers.

Content Advisory: Some swearing, some intense scenes – medical emergencies, domestic fighting, and armed assault. Nothing graphic, detailed, or excessive. 

To Sum It Up: Fun, fantastic (Definition: imaginative or fanciful), and more than a little crazy, The Age of Amy: Channel ’63 is the perfect choice for a younger reader — or for an adult looking for a break from the intense realism of most modern-day literature. I recommend this book to readers ages 10+.