Review: The House at 758 by Kathryn Berla

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A late-nighter for me.  That’s what this one was.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I finished it in less than a day.  It was that good.

Krista’s life isn’t going so well.  Still grieving the unexpected death of her mother, she’s also trying to cope with her dad’s new live-in girlfriend.  Her best friend is gone for the summer leaving Krista with nobody to confide in.  Rather than facing her problems head on, she escapes.  To a tent she’s pitched on her roof, to her car, anywhere but where her issues lie.

Her dad has tried to convince her to resume therapy but she’s not interested.  She’d rather, quite obsessively, watch the house at 758.  Why does this particular house hold her interest?   And what is she hoping to accomplish?

When she meets Jake, she begins to have a purpose.  Still, she has so many things she’s dealing with that having any kind of a romance proves difficult.  Then her grandpa comes for a visit.  He’s also mourning the loss of her mother, his daughter.  Can he help Krista find her way back to those she cares about?

Lots of things going on with this story, but they blend together seamlessly.  I loved reading Krista’s thoughts, especially in her self-imposed isolation on the roof.  She’s grieving but also avoiding grieving at the same time.  And the house at 758?  There’s a reason she can’t stay away.  It won’t take you long to connect the dots, but the full story doesn’t come until closer to the end.

Note:  Although this is the debut novel from this author, the Spanish version was released several years ago.  This new release is the English version.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The House at 758

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~~Review: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

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High school can be brutal.  Even more so when you’re the new girl.  Finding new friends can be a lifesaver.  Or not…

Kacey’s only known the dysfunction of life with her mother.  So when she moves in with her dad, things are shockingly normal. Including her stepmother and step siblings.  She even makes new friends, tops among them being Bailey and Jade.  Amazing how quickly they took her in and made her one of their own.  Maybe a bit too quickly?

When Bailey goes missing, all eyes turn to Kacey.  What does she know about Bailey’s disappearance?  And does it have anything to do with the legend of that creepy ghost lady everyone likes to talk about?  Kacey soon finds out that her new friends aren’t at all what they seem to be.

This is mean girls at its finest. Two’s company, three’s a crowd and all that.  The real thrill, though, comes from the many twists and turns along the way.  It’ll keep you guessing up until the very end.  And after you’re done guessing, you’ll just be shocked.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Little Monsters

Review and Giveaway: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

“So many people dream of living in a house with a white picket fence. Little do they know, there’s no such thing as a perfect family, no matter how white the picket fence is.”

I am always so excited when I get to read a new Colleen Hoover book. I’m so anxious to see what she’s going to do to my heart. From the very first sentence I knew I was going to like Merit. From the second one, I knew this family was going to be different. So I orderd pizza for the kids and I settled in to spend the evening reading. Best night of my year.

Without Merit is a story about a girl who keeps all the many secrets of her family. She hates it but she does it. But everyone has their breaking point, and when Merit reaches hers, the Voss family won’t know what hit them.

After the emotional book, It Ends With Us, Colleen switched gears and went back to her Slammed roots and gave us this fabulous story. This is a book that I recommend you read along with your teens. It deals with some tough and very poignant issues that many of them, and us, face today. I personally, will be having my kids read this. In fact, this will be their first CoHo book and I’m rather excited over this fact. While they may not have to deal with many of the issues being faced in this book, they may find that Merit is just like them.

This story is a mass bundle of quirkiness and emotion. I was drawn in by the over the top idiosyncrasies of each member under the Dollar Voss roof. I wish I knew this family. They’re as unique as their names. I don’t wanna say anymore, because you need to just dive in and immerse yourself in this world.

Without Merit isn’t a romance story really. It’s a life story. At first I thought Merit wasn’t the “usual” character, but then I got to thinking, “What is the usual character?” She stressed over and struggled with daily life. She feels her family is a bunch of crazies. She wishes for peace in her world but doesn’t know a healthy way of finding it. I don’t know about you, but she sounds pretty “usual” to me.

“It used to feel like I was on top of the world. Then one day, I noticed that it felt like I was no longer on top. I was just floating around inside of it. And then eventually, it felt like the world was on top of me.”

Colleen, thank you for writing a story that hit me right where I needed to be hit. Thank you for giving me lots to think about in my children’s and my own life. You bury me.

~Melpomene
Enter to win a signed hardcover of Without Merit HERE

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Review: On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold

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There are a couple of signs that a book really WOWED me.  If I finish it within a couple of days, it’s a given.  But, whenever I feel compelled to immediately write a review, well then you can be sure it’s a winner.

Clara doesn’t want for much of anything, but her life is anything but easy.  Growing up as the daughter of a famous ballet dancer has put enormous pressure on her going back as far as she can remember.  She’s always felt as if she can’t measure up to her beautiful, graceful, and excessively thin mother.  So it’s no surprise that she’s developed an eating disorder.  Maybe not the binging and purging or wasting away type, but still.  Under the guise of healthy eating, she’s obsessively concerned with everything she puts into her mouth.  And who can blame her?  She’s just following her mother’s example, after all.

When things go too far, however, she finds herself sent off to visit her estranged father for the summer.  Sure, it’s in Paris.  But it also means she has to spend the summer with her stepmother and a brother she doesn’t even know.  To make matters more difficult in her mind, he’s on the autism spectrum.  Will they be able to help each other?

There are so many important things going on in this story, things that almost any young person or adult can relate to.  There’s a nontraditional, blended family as a result of divorce.  There’s a love interest, of course.  Because what young adult story wouldn’t have one?  And then there are the more serious issues, eating disorders and children with autism spectrum  disorders.

This is the rare young adult book that I actually feel safe recommending for truly young adults.  It provides a true look at real issues faced by many young people without delving into the culture of sex, drugs, and alcohol so prominent in many of today’s books marketed toward young people.  A great story!

~Thalia

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Review: Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Adults can usually see the big picture, but all Caleb sees are the obstacles of Cystic Fibrosis and the shadow of his older brother. Kit’s big picture life is dysfunctional and challenging, and in order to survive it she creates a smaller, magical world … and invites Caleb in. 

Every Beth Vrabel book I review includes the caveat that I’m not really a YA/middle grades fiction fan. Well call me a convert. I just can’t say it anymore, because I truly love Vrabel’s tales of kids living with a disability, finding their place, figuring out who their true friends are, and growing into independence and self-advocacy. 

Vrabel uses humor to explain Caleb’s CF troubles, in a way that any middle-grader will find entertaining (i.e. there’s mention of poop). She also creates a family that loves Caleb so much it’s stifling — a feeling most tweenagers know well. Reading Caleb and Kit, I was totally schooled on how much effort it takes to get through a day when you have a medical condition – or, in Kit’s situation, a dysfunctional home life. And Vrabel writes it all very casually and brightly… no gloominess allowed when describing the facts of someone’s daily existence. 

When Caleb and Kit find each other, they create a special kind of friendship that isn’t based on dependence, but on believing in each other so they might believe in themselves and grow to be independent. As Vrabel explains scientifically, just look at the trees and you’ll see! 

You’ll have to read the book to find out where their friendship ends up, but know this: Over the course of the chapters, my heart grew tender for Caleb and Kit, and yours will too. 

-calliope

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Review: Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

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Ask any bibliophile what they think about banning books and you’re sure to get an earful.  At the very core of our being is the need to read anything and everything that we wish.  So when someone mentions banning a book based on a moral objection, that’s dangerous territory.

Amy Anne loves to read.  And she has one book that she loves to read above all others:  From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  She checks it out from the school library as often as she can.  In fact, she’d check it out every single time if she could.  When she goes to check it out one day, however, it’s not there.  To her dismay, she finds out that it’s been removed.  Banned, even.  Somebody somewhere decided that this most favorite book of hers, along with several others, isn’t appropriate for kids to read.

Thus begins Amy Anne’s mission.  She takes it upon herself to make sure that all the kids can read all the books.  Along the way she learns to voice her opinion, to make friends, and to follow her heart even when it’s not the easy thing to do.

Do parents have the right to choose what books they want their children to read?  Absolutely.  However, they don’t have the right to choose what books everyone else’s children are allowed to read.  It’s a slippery slope when one book is banned because somebody has an objection, and that message is driven home through this narrative.

I loved this book so very much.  Amy Anne is me when I was a kid in so many ways.  Losing herself in books, not speaking up because she didn’t want to cause trouble for anyone, she resonated deeply with me.  I only wish that the younger version of me had as much courage as she did to stand up for something she believed in.

*Note:  I’d recommend this one for middle school and up.  Although the message is appropriate for all ages, there is some mention of more mature content.

*Another note:  All of the books in this fictional story are books that have actually been challenged or banned at one time or another.

*One more note:  When I started this book, I had no idea that Amy Anne’s most favorite book in the whole wide world was also my most favorite book in the whole wide world when I was a kid.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Ban This Book

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Review: This is Not the End by Chandler Baker

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What if, instead of dead actually being forever, there was a possibility of bringing your loved ones back to life?  Instead of losing those closest to you forever, you had the power to undo their death?  That’s exactly the premise in this chillingly semi-futuristic story.

In one instant, Lake’s world is shattered.  A tragic car accident takes the lives of both her best friend and her boyfriend.  Miraculously she survives.  But she’s left with an unimaginable dilemma.  You see,  technology has given people the ability to be resurrected.  Not just randomly and at will, mind you.  Instead, every person receives one resurrection on their eighteenth birthday to be used on whoever they choose.  That’s one resurrection, though.  And Lake can’t imagine making that choice.

To make matters even more difficult, her resurrection choice has already been promised to her older brother who was tragically paralyzed years earlier.  She’s not even close to her brother anymore, so she surely can’t imagine wasting this precious gift on him. Especially when the love of her life and her best friend have died.

Things aren’t always what they seem, of course.  As Lake struggles to come to terms with the accident, while also recovering from her own injuries, she discoveries that nobody is who they seem to be.  And then, of course, there’s a new guy to complicate matters.

This story is a lot of things.  It’s science fiction, for now at least.  It’s a romance.  It’s a teen drama.  And it’s a mystery with one heck of a twist at the end that I sure didn’t see coming.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  This is Not the End