Book Review: This Is My Brain in Love by I. W. Gregorio @IWGregorio @LittleBrownYR

This Is My Brain In Love
I. W. Gregorio
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-42382-3

Jocelyn isn’t truly bitter. She is just very busy. Like most teens, she’d rather be doing just about anything aside from spending every available moment working for the family restaurant, A Plus. Until she hears her father talk of moving back into the city.

She did love New York, of course. But she had just started to love living here. She found bubble tea and Priya. Jocelyn will not go without a fight. She will save the business. And she will get help.

William saw the Help Wanted sign. Spending a summer as an intern-manager of a restaurant was not at all what we wanted, but exactly what he needed. Life is tough enough simply breathing-while-Black; suffering from anxiety on top of that sometimes felt crippling. He’d heard a hard truth. To be the reporter he wanted to be, even if it was just for his private-school newspaper, Will is going to have to ‘get out there’ and get into things.

It would be almost easy to say This Is My Brain In Love is about mental illness, but it really is not. The story is about how, as an individual, we are so many things. Jocelyn is the responsible grandchild, offspring, elder sibling and master-of-every-task in the family’s Chinese restaurant. In her spare time, she works with Priya, creating short films. And she still manages to squeeze in time with William—who wears a few hats of his own.

And, yes, some characters may deal with mental illness—whether they acknowledge it or not. It is an invisible weight, but just like in real life, it is but a small part of a greater whole. I’m so pleased to see a story show that students’ stresses do not start and stop at school. Many high-schoolers have heavy responsibilities outside of classes and grades. So many families count on their contributions.

Ms. Gregorio marvelously manages to cover and convey so much in an engaging and oh-so-easy-to-read way. It will not surprise you to know that I’m looking forward to giving away many, many copies of this YA wonder.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2020.

Book Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship BreakerShip Breaker
Paolo Bacigalupi
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-08168-9
Also available in hardcover and paperback

Nailer is small for his age. He’s a good worker too but time is running out. He’s getting too big for the small crew and his father sinks further into drug fuelled rages with every passing day. One day, the Fates bring a storm into his midst. In the middle of it all is a girl, a girl that will change his world. Will Nailer turn his back on family? But what is family these days? Blood? Loyalty? Only time will tell.

At first glance, this wasn’t the typical type of book that appeals to me. I’m not really that interested in ships and I found the descriptions of the inner workings of them and their components unappealing. But the story is well written with characters that are engaging. You want to find out what happens to this scrawny, abused boy. Is he going to survive his poverty stricken environment? Will he manage to get his lucky break and leave his no good father behind? You’ll find that you’ll keep reading because you really want to know.  The world depicted in the book is one set in the future along the lower east coast of America. Category 6 storms frequent the coast and New Orleans is permanently underwater. Given recent events, it’s a stark warning of what could possibly come to pass. It’s also a world where social class is divided into two sections, the very rich and the very poor. There is no in between. Half men, a genetic mixture of human, dog, tiger and hyena are bought only by the rich due to their hefty price tag. They bring an added element of tension and uneasiness to the book and are so well written that they appear entirely plausible.

I did think that the start of the book was a bit slow but halfway through, it really picked up pace and became much more exciting. There were highs and lows, fights, kidnappings and a great chase, culminating in a dramatic ending for more than one character. I really do think this book will appeal to the young adult audience and it’s one that I will be recommending to those I know. It was an enjoyable read and certainly, any writer that can make me want to read more about ships is a darn good one. Boys in particular should find this a good read, especially any who have an interest in dystopian fiction in general. Much like The Hunger Games, this really is a fight for survival where only the fittest and smartest will win.

A great book that comes highly recommended.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, November 2012.

My Favorite Books Of 2011—And We Have A Winner!

Judythe Morgan is the lucky winner of Underdead by Liz Jasper.

Congratulations and happy reading, Judythe!


My 2011 list of books that enticed and tantalized me

wasn’t easy to come up with but here they are with my

great thanks to all these authors and publishers—

1.   Hounded by Kevin Hearne (Del Rey Books)Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old–when in actuality, he’s twenty-one “centuries” old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.  Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power–plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish–to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

2.   Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick (Egmont)—An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions. Alex, a resourceful seventeen-year-old running from her incurable brain tumor, hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom–a young soldier who has left the war in Afghanistan–and Ellie, an angry eight-year-old girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.  For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Review of Ashes

3.   Ashfall by Mike Mullin (Tanglewood Press)—Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano, so large that the caldera can only be seen by plane or satellite. And by some scientific measurements, it could be overdue for an eruption. For Alex, being left alone for the weekend means having the freedom to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek to seach for his family and finds help in Darla, a travel partner he meets along the way. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.

Review of Ashfall

4.   Skating Over the Line by Joelle Charbonneau (Minotaur Books)—Rebecca Robbins is desperate to sell her inherited roller-skating rink in small-town Indian Falls, and—finally—she has a buyer. She can’t wait to head back to Chicago, especially now that her long delinquent father has blown back into town, but Lionel, her veterinarian boyfriend, thinks she should stay put. Also, the gang at the Senior Center wants her to track down the thief who’s been hot-wiring rusted-out classic cars. Unable to resist, Rebecca soon has the Sheriff’s Deputy threatening to arrest her for obstruction, and strange but scary men threatening her life. Then cars start exploding, with people in them, and Rebecca’s father goes missing. With the help of Pop, her Elvis-impersonating grandfather, Rebecca must find the pyromaniac car thief and put a stop to him—before he stops her first.

5.   The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn (Atria Books)—Bernie is invited to give the keynote speech at the Great Western Private Eye Convention, but it’s Chet that the bigshot P.I. in charge has secret plans for. Meanwhile Chet and Bernie are hired to find a kid who has gone missing from a wilderness camp in the high country. The boy’s mother thinks the boy’s father–her ex–has snatched the boy, but Chet makes a find that sends the case in a new and dangerous direction. As if that weren’t enough, matters get complicated at home when a stray puppy that looks suspiciously like Chet shows up. Affairs of the heart collide with a job that’s never been tougher, requiring our two intrepid sleuths to depend on each other as never before.

Review of The Dog Who Knew Too Much

6.   Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis (Angry Robot)—Stan Markowski is a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD’s Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit. Like the rest of America, Scranton’s got an uneasy ‘live and let unlive’ relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that’s when they call Markowski. He carries a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.

Review of Hard Spell

7.   The Providence of Death by Bronson L. Parker (Self-published)—Joe McKibben refuses to accept the emotional reality that his wife of thirty years was killed in a vehicle crash. Like the good cop he once was, he ignores his feelings of grief, telling himself he’s still married. Eleven months of living alone has him asking why he’s still alive. His ignored feelings of grief explode into anger when he finds the brutally slain body of another retired detective and close friend. Evidence indicates his friend’s death may be linked to an older murder in the city, one that has remained unsolved for three decades. McKibben, now the owner of a historical research firm, begins to dig into the older murder, using computerized data that did not exist in the 1970s. His research unearths a trail of crime and tragedy that leads back a half-century into the city’s history and forward to the wife of the man who will be the city’s next police chief. McKibben’s search, which takes him across three states, also leads to a chance encounter that gives his life a new beginning.

8.   The Shattering by Karen Healey (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)—Seventeen-year-old Keri likes to plan for every possibility. She knows what to do if you break an arm, or get caught in an earthquake or fire. But she wasn’t prepared for her brother’s suicide, and his death has left her shattered with grief. When her childhood friend Janna tells her it was murder, not suicide, Keri wants to believe her. After all, Janna’s brother died under similar circumstances years ago, and Janna insists a visiting tourist, Sione, who also lost a brother to apparent suicide that year, has helped her find some answers.  As the three dig deeper, disturbing facts begin to pile up: one boy killed every year; all older brothers; all had spent New Year’s Eve in the idyllic town of Summerton. But when their search for the serial killer takes an unexpected turn, suspicion is cast on those they trust the most.  As secrets shatter around them, can they save the next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?

Review of The Shattering

9.   I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins)—It starts with whispers. Then someone picks up a stone. Finally, the fires begin. When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . . Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy. But someone–or something–is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root–before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

10. Ranchero by Rick Gavin (Minotaur Books)—Repo man Nick Reid had a seemingly simple job to do: talk to Percy Dwayne Dubois– pronounced “Dew-boys,” front-loaded and hick specific–about the payments he’s behind on for a flat screen TV, or repossess it. But Percy Dwayne wouldn’t give in. Nope, instead he saw fit to go all white-trash philosophical and decided that since the world was stacked against him anyway, he might as well fight it. He hit Nick over the head with a fireplace shovel, tied him up with a length of lamp cord, and stole the mint-condition calypso coral-colored 1969 Ranchero that Nick had borrowed from his landlady. And he took the TV with him on a rowdy ride across the Mississippi Delta.  Nick and his best friend Desmond, fellow repo man in Indianola, Mississippi, have no choice but to go after him. The fact that the trail eventually leads to Guy, a meth cooker recently set up in the Delta after the Feds ran him out of New Orleans, is of no consequence–Nick will do anything to get the Ranchero back. And it turns out he might have to.