books and reading

Waiting on Wednesday: Little White Lies by Brianna Baker

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

25614196Little White Lies by Brianna Baker and F. Bowman Hastie III

Expected Release Date: February 9, 2016

Seventeen-year-old honors student Coretta White’s Tumblr, Little White Lies—her witty thoughts on pretty much . . . everything—has gone viral. She’s got hundreds of thousands of followers; she’s even been offered a TV deal. But Coretta has a secret. She hasn’t been writing all her own posts. Stressed from the demands of the sudden attention, she hired an expert ghostwriter, forty-one-year-old Karl Ristoff, to keep the Tumblr going. Now consumed with guilt, she confesses.

Almost instantly, she suffers a public humiliation. The TV deal disappears. Her boyfriend breaks up with her. Then Karl is thrust into the limelight, only to suffer a dramatic fall himself. Together, they vow to find out who is responsible for ruining both of their lives, and why. But in order to exact justice and a wicked revenge, they must first come clean with each other.

(summary via Goodreads)

Everything about this one looks like a lot of fun.  I love that it features a black girl on the cover.  I love that it’s about a ghostwriter and Tumblr and lies.  I love the idea of exploring what happens after a social media disaster.  It’s going to be a fun read for sure, and it’s perfect mid-winter reading.

What are you waiting on this week?


books and reading

Waiting on Wednesday: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

22449806The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

Expected Release Date: January 26, 2016

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

(summary via Goodreads)

The book is being compared to Sarah Dessen, which remains to be seen, but I can’t lie: this looks like a pretty compelling contemporary YA read.  I’m looking forward to seeing the exploration of the friendship between these two characters, as well as a hopefully rich portrayal of the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters.

What are you waiting on this week?

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely


Sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking to buy a bag of chips at the corner store when he’s mistaken for a shoplifter and ends up the victim of serious police brutality.  Immediately the community is divided: was Rashad resisting arrest?  Was the cop, Paul Galuzzi, acting out of racist rage?  People’s opinions are split, but there are witnesses to the crime: Quinn Collins, a classmate of Rashad’s and best friends with Galuzzi’s little brother, saw the whole thing go down.  And there’s cell phone video of the beating, too.  Quinn is sure that Galuzzi acted right, because how could someone who practically raised him do something so horrible?  But then Rashad is absent from school again and again.  And as people start to take sides and tensions flare, Quinn has to confront some harsh truths about life and consequences of choices.

Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds each take one character and tell this story from both perspectives.  Each chapter alternates the perspective of one of the boys, and the result is a fast-paced, thoughtful piece of fiction whose aim is to examine the state of race relations and police brutality in America.  The good news is that it mostly succeeds, due in large part to the talents of both authors, who craft realistic characters and offer readers thoughtful nuance to the issue and the people facing the problems.

As with most “problem novels” (for lack of a better term), there is some visible moving of the set pieces around.  The novel takes an issue that is at the forefront of most Americans’ minds these days and crafts a fictional story that feels all too real.  But what’s commendable here is that both Kiely and Reynolds keep it fictional enough so that readers have a bit of distance from similar real-life situations, allowing them to take the time to really think about and consider the entire event.

On the whole, this is a compulsively readable story about two boys who end up having more in common than they think.  It offers readers no easy answers, isn’t overly didactic, and is absolutely one that will spark a great deal of discussion.  Both Kiely and Reynolds give this hard topic the care and consideration it deserves.

This ripped-from-the-headlines story told in dual narration offers readers a fresh, fictional perspective on an issue that’s important, timely, and difficult.  Recommended.

All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Atheneum: 2015. Library copy.



books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Bright Coin Moon by Kirsten Lopresti


Lindsey Allen is a straight-A student whose sole focus is on becoming an astronomer.  In order to do that, she has to escape the life she lives with her free-spirit mother, a former beauty queen who runs a business as a fake psychic out of their garage.  When her mother decides it’s time to move from Oregon to Los Angeles, she uproots Lindsey’s whole life.  The two start over in L.A., living in a run-down apartment building.  A wealthy mentor enters Lindsey’s life, and she might just be the ticket to Lindsey’s bright future, but her mother has other plans.

What works well in Lopresti’s novel works very well: a strong protagonist who is fully realized as a character, a gritty portrayal of a complicated mother-daughter relationship, and sparse language that’s engaging and vaguely haunting.  Lopresti has crafted a story that resonates long after readers finish the last page, and it’s guaranteed to attract fans. The suspense of what will happen to these two women, as well as Lindsey’s growing suspicions and worries about her mother’s mental state, make this a compelling read.

The book has a few stumbles, though.  Lindsey’s burgeoning relationship with her super-cute neighbor Paco feels oddly chaste in a way that distracts from the overall narrative.  It doesn’t quite fit into the story and would in fact be better left out altogether since it never quite gels.  While Lindsey herself is well drawn, many of the other characters, including her mother, are not.  There’s a thinness to them that makes the reader wonder whether or not there’s truly anything under the surface.


Despite the book’s darker topics, Lopresti ends it on a hopeful, if cautious note.  It’s likely to attract a fair amount of teen readers because it has an appealing plot and is well written.  It would benefit from stronger character development, but it’s still a strong contender when it comes to teen appeal.

Bright Coin Moon by Kirsten Lopresti.  Sky Pony Press: 2015. Library copy.

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

Eva is obsessed with romance novels.  She’s read over a hundred of them in the years since her father passed away.  They help her escape the pains of her reality.  Swept up in romantic fantasies, she’s thrilled when she meets Will, a boy who not only seems interested in her but also seems to understand her.  Just as she’s falling for him, Will announces that he’s moving across the country to California.  Unwilling to accept losing him, Eva and her best friend Annie embark on a journey that takes them across the country to see Will and do a little growing up of their own.

Margo Rabb’s novel is part-coming-of-age, part road-trip-saga.  It is wholly excellent, with smart, nuanced characters and a generous dollop of emotional authenticity.  Rabb nails how grief works and how people process it.  It’s a story with an excellent investigation of love in all its various forms, offering readers poignancy but no pat answers or hollow platitudes.

What also works exceptionally well here is the gentle exploration of the relationship between mothers and daughters.  Eva’s mother seems to have completely moved on from the loss of Eva’s father, but Eva is still fresh in her grief.  As Eva becomes more obsessed with the world of romance novels, Eva’s mother becomes increasingly enmeshed in her work as a women’s studies professor.  The two don’t see eye to eye and barely communicate, causing them both even more pain.  All of this is done well, with realism and subtlety.  It’s clear that these two characters love each other.

The same can be said for Eva’s realistic, flawed friendship with her best friend Annie Kim.  The two girls are inseparable and have genuine love for each other, but they also have their own issues to deal with.  There’s so much here that readers both teen and adult will relate to when it comes to complications within friendships.  All of it is so well done.

This is a strong piece of fiction, and it’s one that teens will eat up.  It’s smart, insightful, and full of hope.  Chock-full of multidimensional characters, this is a must-buy for any collection.  Recommended.

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb. Harper: 2015. Library copy.


books and reading

Waiting on Wednesday: Other Broken Things by Christa Desir

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Other Broken Things by Christa Desir

Expected Release Date: January 12, 2015

Nat’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like get in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Unfortunately her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life and things start looking up. Joe is funny, smart, and calls her out in a way no one ever has.

He’s also older. A lot older.

Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now in order to make a different kind of life, Natalie must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.

(summary via Goodreads)

This one hits all my sweet spots.  Not only does Christa Desir seem like an awesome person in general (she is one of the rare authors I follow on Twitter), she’s smart and writes incisive fiction about tough stuff.  It feels weird to say that a book that sounds this dark hits my sweet spots, but it totally does: addiction, Bad For You Friends, older dudes…I can’t wait to see what Desir does with all this.

What are you waiting on this week?

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: This Side of Home by Renee Watson

Maya and Nikki are identical twins about to start their senior years of high school.  Their plan has always been to graduate and go to a historically black college together with their best friend.  But as they adjust to changes in their neighborhood (gentrification threatens to uproot their friends and neighbors), they also struggle to adjust to changes within each other.  As they work to reconcile who they are as young adults, they also deal with who they are as individuals and not just twins.

Renee Watson’s debut YA novel is a breath of fresh air with a singular voice that allows readers to explore complex issues in a way that feels mostly naturalistic.  Maya’s narration is very direct and offers readers insight into how families deal (and communities) with change.  The characters who populate Watson’s story are layered, authentic, and successful.  These are smart teens who still feel like teens, and also noteworthy is the fact that they are surrounded by adults who are not only present but feel just as real.

There’s a lot happening in the book, but Maya’s narrative keeps the story grounded.  As the teens deal with diverging interests, gentrification, and interracial relationships, her voice keeps the story centered on her family and the community.  The book offers readers no easy answers but does provide a bit of hope about the future without slipping into the saccharine.

Because of the larger issues explored in the book, it would be easy for Watson to allow her story to lose focus.  But she manages to keep a hold on her characters while also presenting complex illustrations of what happens to a community when wealth begins to seep in.  This is a nuanced look at an important and often overlooked topic.  Watson is an author to watch.

This Side of Home by Renee Watson. Bloomsbury Childrens: 2015. Library copy.