Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng (Read by Jennifer Lim)

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From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

(from Amazon)

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Wow! I loved Celeste Ng’s first book, EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, and I loved this one as well. What a great story. Ng has a way with words, and her prose paints such a vivid depiction of daily life. It’s all in the details.

This was a captivating story, which I listened to on my commute. You could see where things were headed and that disaster was looming on the horizons, but I just couldn’t stop listening. Devastating yet memorable, this was one of my fave books of 2017.

I got mine from Audible, and you can, too — or get it an your local favorite indie bookshop, online, or at the library!

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THE CLUE IN THE TREES by Marji Preus

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LIARS, INC. by Paula Stokes

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So – this one popped up in my sale of the day for Kindle a while ago. It’s one of those thrilling and suspenseful reads, aimed at YA but I think for older readers, too. I read it in one day just to see what would happen. Here’s the overview from Amazon:

A dark and twisted psychological tale, which Kirkus Reviews called “captivating to the very end” in a starred review—perfect for fans of I Hunt Killers and Gone Girl.

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money. So with the help of his friend Preston and his girlfriend, Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something, and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about it. But then Preston never comes home. And the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead to Preston’s body.

Terrifying clues that point to Max as the killer….

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So – here’s the thing. This is the kind of book that you need to suspend disbelief to read, and that can work with YA books. However, due to the amount of sex in this novel, I would recommend it for older YA readers (I find that kids are choosing YA when they aren’t even in middle school yet, and that concerns me. But that is a story for another day!). I couldn’t stop reading as I wanted to see what happened, etc. I did not figure out the ending (kudos to the author!). I’d love to read another by her!

Recommended to those who enjoy a fast, thrilling read that involves older teens.

 

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GIRL IN SNOW by Danya Kukafka

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Yet another “I can’t stop reading!” book for me this summer! I love these suspenseful mysteries. I actually figure this one out, but it wasn’t obvious. If you like these type of mysteries, pick this one up today!
Thank you for my review copy!
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THE UNLIKELIES by Carrie Firestone

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Another great YA read was this novel about some unlikely friends who set out to be do-gooders.

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I am recommending this one to my 8th grader. It will give us a good opportunity to discuss drug use (or I should say continue the discussion), as the portrayal in this book is, I think, very realistic.
Thank you, Net Galley, for my e-copy!
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IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE by Christina June

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Net Galley has a section where you can “wish” for a book — it’s not readily available for request or to all audiences. Well I wished and got this one – and I’m so happy I did! While this is billed as a “Cinderella story”, I found it to be a well-written and insightful YA novel about a teen girl dealing with coming of age issues. I’ll be recommending it to my 14 year old and to my middle schoolers.

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Thank you SO MUCH for making me part of the “wishes granted” group. I feel like Cinderella!

You can find this book at your local library or favorite indie — or online at Amazon, where I am an Associate:

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THE FINISHING SCHOOL by Joanna Goodman

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I had heard about this book via the blogosphere, but I couldn’t get it via my usual sources; thus I was thrilled when the author kindly sent me a copy of it!

Here’s the overview via Amazon:

In this suspenseful, provocative novel of friendship, secrets, and deceit, a successful writer returns to her elite Swiss boarding school to get to the bottom of a tragic accident that took place while she was a student twenty years earlier.

How far would you go to uncover the truth?

One spring night in 1998 the beautiful Cressida Strauss plunges from a fourth-floor balcony at the Lycée Internationale Suisse with catastrophic consequences. Loath to draw negative publicity to the school, a bastion of European wealth and glamour, officials quickly dismiss the incident as an accident, but questions remain: Was it a suicide attempt? Or was Cressida pushed? It was no secret that she had a selfish streak and had earned as many enemies as allies in her tenure at the school. For her best friend, scholarship student Kersti Kuusk, the lingering questions surrounding Cressida’s fall continue to nag long after she leaves the Lycée.

Kersti marries and becomes a bestselling writer, but never stops wondering about Cressida’s obsession with the Helvetian Society—a secret club banned years before their arrival at the school—and a pair of its members who were expelled. When Kersti is invited as a guest to the Lycée’s 100th Anniversary, she begins probing the cover-up, unearthing a frightening underbelly of lies and abuse at the prestigious establishment. And in one portentous moment, Kersti makes a decision that will connect her to Cressida forever and raise the stakes dangerously high in her own desire to solve the mystery and redeem her past.

An unputdownable read as clever as it is compelling, The Finishing School offers a riveting glimpse into a privileged, rarefied world in which nothing is as it appears.

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So – if you read me, you know that I love novels that take place in boarding schools and that are suspenseful. This storyline pulled me in from the start and kept me reading. It does toggle back and forth in time, from the girls’ time there as students to Kersti in modern life, which I know some readers don’t like. I did figure out most of the mystery well in advance of its big reveal, but I enjoyed it anyway. At first I thought I would give it to my 8th grader to read when I was done, but sexual content and abuse included makes me say this one is really for adults or older YA readers.

Quick to read and with a story that can haunt you, The Finishing School is a suspenseful summer find! Thank you for my review copy!

Find it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Spotlight on BEASTIA by Zoe Cruz

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So I’m spotlighting a new YA fantasy title today that sounds really good — BEASTIA by Zoe Cruz. I haven’t read it myself (yet), but here’s the overview:

What if beauty became the beast?

IN A DARK NEW RETELLING OF BEAUTY AND THE BEAST,

A MEAN GIRL FALLS PREY TO A MADMAN

The meanest of the mean girls, Rebekah Austin rules her Chicago school with sharp outfits and an even sharper tongue. She has a way of eviscerating even the most beautiful and brilliant girls in her class to maintain her cold grip on the high school social hierarchy. But underneath the queen-bee façade is someone who feels ugly, repulsive… beastly.

An edgy thriller from a dynamic new voice on the YA scene, Beastia by Zoe Cruz [March 17, 2017, Createspace] joins best-selling novels like Cinder and Princess of Thorns in the buzzy canon of modern fairytale retellings that explore deeper themes of the original story.

More than an exploration of Beauty and the Beast, Cruz flips the script by challenging the mainstream media representation of conventionally beautiful women falling in love with not-so-attractive men (in this case, literally a beast) when the opposite is so rarely portrayed. Love and friendship aren’t exclusive to the conventionally attractive, which is a subjective standard to begin with. As Rebekah learns lessons about beauty, love and self worth, the reader finds their own assumptions and prejudices challenged.

“Going through life alone is impossible, especially when dealing with heavy things like depression and/or anxiety,” Cruz says. “I think everyone needs and deserves to have people in their lives that are present through difficult times and that allow them to see life in a different way, more positively regardless of external signifiers.”

About the Author:

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Zoe Cruz is a writer, reader and self-professed geek who loves all things sci-fi and fantasy. She wrote Beastia while living in Spain working with humanitarian organizations. You can find her watching Star Trek, eating pizza or playing Skyrim.

Connect with Zoe Cruz on twitter.com/zoe_rogue and at https://zoecruzblog.wordpress.com.

Beastia [Createspace] will be released March 17, 2017, and will be available via Amazon.

Thank you to my friends at Smith Publicity for making me part of the tour and for sending me an ecopy!

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The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane

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Oh my goodness — I just loved this YA book that I found as a kindle deal a while ago. This was a touching and sensitive book about teens at a summer camp for kids with mental health challenges. It was the kind of book that made you laugh, yet made you cry. I loved the sense of self-forgiveness and positive hope that came at the end!

I got mine via Amazon – you can find it online or in your favorite bookstore!

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

According to sixteen-year-old Zander Osborne, nowhere is an actual place—and she’s just fine there. But her parents insist that she get out of her head—and her home state—and attend Camp Padua, a summer camp for at-risk teens.

Zander does not fit in—or so she thinks. She has only one word for her fellow campers:crazy. In fact, the whole camp population exists somewhere between disaster and diagnosis. There’s her cabinmate Cassie, a self-described manic-depressive-bipolar-anorexic. Grover Cleveland (yes, like the president), a cute but confrontational boy who expects to be schizophrenic someday, odds being what they are. And Bek, a charmingly confounding pathological liar.

But amid group “share-apy” sessions and forbidden late-night outings, unlikely friendships form, and as the Michigan summer heats up, the four teens begin to reveal their tragic secrets. Zander finds herself inextricably drawn to Grover’s earnest charms, and she begins to wonder if she could be happy. But first she must come completely unraveled to have any hope of putting herself back together again.

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It has some serious issues in it, so I’d recommend it for high school.

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THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE ON EARTH by Lindsey Lee Johnson

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Here’s another book that I’ve just been waiting and waiting for Pub Day for so that I can tell you about it! I got it on Net Galley months ago and read it in a day.

Now to be honest, I’m not sure I’d compare it to Celeste Ng’s novel (which I loved) and I guess it can be like PREP as it’s about wealthy kids in high school. I also wouldn’t say, as someone does, that it reads like Jane Austen. I, however, found it fascinating because you can watch the trajectory that this teacher is on in terms of her behavior and her actions and even her motivations and you just want to stop her because things are headed for a cataclysm.

If you’ve forgotten what high school was like (really? can anyone, ever?) or if you want to revisit it, especially through the eyes of a young and impressionable (though well-meaning but naive) teacher, pick up this book!

Here’s the look/see from NG:

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Recognition

January 2017 Indie Next selection
January 2017 LibraryReads selection
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