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
Hardcover

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: Heir of Arcadia by Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins @DebAdams_Writer @Kim_Writes

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Title: Heir of Arcadia
Authors: Deborah Adams & Kimberley Perkins
Publisher: Rocket City Publishing
Publication Date: July 24, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Adventure

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Heir of Arcadia
Deborah Adams & Kimberley Perkins
Rocket City Publishing, July 2020
ISBN 978-1-7325071-8-0
Hardcover

From the authors—

Can Collins and Quinn call a truce long enough to survive?

Quinn’s hectic job as a special agent keeps her busy, but never busy enough to tamp out her inconvenient attraction to CEO billionaire Julian Collins. He is usually the biggest pain in her side, but he can also be recklessly charming. When Collins asks her to open a secret investigation into his company, she worries that extra time alone with him might test her resolve to stay away.

Julian Collins always dreamed of being on Arcadia, a fictional world from his favorite video game. But lately, he’s been seeing things from the game in real life. He feels like he’s losing his mind, and now is not the time to go crazy. His company is going to be split into a dozen pieces if he can’t discover the secrets hidden in the Special Projects division.

After three years of quasi-friendship, Collins and Quinn have honed arguing into a true art form. As far as he’s concerned, she’s off-limits, but also quick-witted and sexy as hell. She’s the perfect person for the job.

As Quinn and Collins delve deeper into their investigation, secrets will lead them to things no one on earth can explain. Will they discover that searing hot kisses can be even more fun than well-placed insults when a whole new universe is spread before them?

Julian Collins is a man with two jobs, essentially, one as the very young CEO of the company he took over when his dad died a few years earlier and the other as guardian of his little sister, nine-year-old Serah. This young man has been through much more turmoil than most people ever see but he’s doing the best he can in both roles even though he’d much rather be playing a video game, Arcadian Fortress. After having left the running of the company up to others for too long, he’s now attempting to save it from being split up and he has suspicions about what might really be going on. Meanwhile, he’s having hallucinations, apparently seeing things in real life from the game.

Collins needs an investigator’s help and he trusts one person for that, Quinn Lehi. In her view, Collins is a highpowered playboy but, my word, the man was hard to ignore and he was Serah’s brother so she had to put up with him for the sake of the child they both adored. When Collins asks for her help, she agrees to investigate the Special Projects division of the company…and the adventure begins.

You might think a story focused on the inner workings of a giant corporation would be pretty boring but, in the hands of these two very creative authors, boring is not the word to describe this fast action adventure with vivid, charming and not-so-charming characters and a plot full of twisty turns. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

About the Authors

DEBORAH ADAMS and KIMBERLEY PERKINS are authors of the Award-Winning Waypoint series. They are friends and coworkers sharing a love of coffee, literature, and teenagers saving the world. Both live in Huntsville, Alabama, working by day for a contractor supporting the Department of Defense, and by night writing spectacular adventures. For more information about Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins go to www.adamsperkins.com.

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Book Review: Deadly Curious by Cindy Anstey @CindyAnstey @SwoonReads @XpressoTours

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Title: Deadly Curious
Author: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: June 3, 2020
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Young Adult

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Deadly Curious
Cindy Anstey
Swoon Reads, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-25227-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

A twisty tale reminiscent of Jane Austen—with a dash of murder—Cindy Anstey’s Deadly Curious is perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Agatha Christie.

Some secrets are better left buried…

1834. Sophia Thompson wants nothing more than to be one of the famed Bow Street Runners, London’s most elite corps of detectives. Never mind that a woman has never before joined their ranks—and certainly never mind that her reclusive family has forbidden her from pursuing such an unladylike goal.

She gets the chance to prove her capabilities when an urgent letter arrives from her frantic cousin Daphne, begging Sophia to come look into the suspicious death of Daphne’s brother.

As Sophia begins to unravel the tangled threads of the case—with the help of a charming young policeman—she soon realizes that the murderer may be even closer to her family than she ever suspected.

I’ve been fascinated by the Bow Street Runners since the first time I heard about them so, when I saw that this book involves them, I wanted to read it as soon as  I could. As it turns out, the Runner in this story, Jeremy, is not quite as energetic and compelling as I would like although he is appealing. I also thought Sophia was a little silly, especially in deciding, against society’s restraints and her upbringing, that she was cut out to be a detective just because she read a book. Once I recognized the flies in the ointment with these two characters, I decided to read this as a fun, fluffy bit of entertainment and I enjoyed it as such.

When Sophia’s cousin, Daphne, writes for Sophia’s help, the murder in question is a year in the past but Sophia’s Uncle Edward is in danger of being arrested at any moment. Our sleuth is more than willing to rush to West Ravenwood but this is 1834 and an 18-year-old girl can’t just rush off anywhere. Watching her machinations to get past all the family and societal roadblocks was as enjoyable as anything in this tale.

Eventually, of course, Sophia does get to West Ravenwood and falls in with Jeremy; together with Daphne, they set out to find a killer and absolve Uncle Edward and, along the way, Sophia and Jeremy find a romantic connection. All in all, this was a few hours of easy reading even though the actual mystery was lightweight.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

About the Author

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester.

Author links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Book Review: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed @sam_aye_ahm @soho_teen

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
Samira Ahmed
Soho Teen, April 2020
ISBN 978-1-61695-989-0
Hardcover

Khayyam’s life is finished and she’s only seventeen.

Ok, that may be a bit over-the-top, but she truly is beyond bummed to have completely blown her chance to achieve her life-long dream. Admittedly, her over-eager attempt to get into the Chicago School of Art Institute was not as well researched as it should have been. The needlessly harsh criticism of one judge plays on repeat in Khayyam’s mind.

The hateful words aren’t wrong; but neither is Khayyam’s theory. A portrait must to be missing from Delacroix’s series based on Byron’s prose. And there is no way that a woman who inspired poetry and paintings was a fictional character plucked from a dark fairy-tale. Khayyam will use her month in Paris to do some proper sleuthing.

Meeting the adorable descendant of Alexandre Dumas and discovering that he, too, is conducting historical studies could prove to be beneficial. And exponentially more entertaining.

As Khayyam gets closer to a truth from the past, she begins to see that even in the present, people are not being completely honest. Going from a having a potential partner to wondering who to trust was unnerving, but uncovering the constantly-controlled life of a mysterious woman was absolutely infuriating.

This woman who had been talked about never got the opportunity to speak for herself. Her name was Leila and her story matters. In learning about Leila, Khayyam’s initial goal to rewrite her essay and prove her case grows distant. She’s no longer focused on her future, but resurrecting Leila’s past is imperative.

Teenagers are completely capable of being many things at once. Inquisitive, determined and tenacious while inexplicably also reckless, romantic and immature. I’ve not seen those traits so perfectly captured and conveyed before “meeting” Khayyam in Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed. Truly terrific YA Historical Fiction!

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2020.

Book Review: Malice by Pintip Dunn @pintipdunn @EntangledTeen @The_FFBC

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Title: Malice
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication date: February 4, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Amazon // Book Depository // Indiebound

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Malice
Pintip Dunn
Entangled Teen, February 2020
ISBN 978-1-64063-412-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

What I know: a boy in my class will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.

What I don’t know: who he is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice they’ve lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way—because now they’ve drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved….

Pintip Dunn has a knack for coming up with young adult science fiction stories that are interesting and creative but are not hardcore science fiction so they appeal to a wider readership that prefer scifi-lite, so to speak. That doesn’t mean they’re weak, by any means, just more accessible and I appreciate that.

The beauty of time travel is that there’s so much you can do with it, so many ways to make it the core of an intriguing tale and that’s true here. By offering a look at certain characters during different stages of their lives that haven’t happened yet, the focus can be on those characters and not so much on the setting or worldbuilding.

Alice is a perfectly normal teen or, at least, as normal as possible for a girl whose mother disappeared years ago and whose father has been emotionally distant ever since. In fact, Alice is the steady one in this family, especially in looking after her older brother, Archie, a prodigy who definitely has a few screws loose and a deep distrust of people. These two and a boy named Bandit are all crucial to the plot and, although I pegged the future creator of the global virus early on, that certainly didn’t keep me from wanting to see how everything would pan out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

About the Author

Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Her novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix del’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the TomeSociety It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award.

Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Goodreads

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Book Reviews: The Furies by Katie Lowe and Don’t Cosplay With My Heart by Cecil Castellucci @fatgirlphd @stmartinspress @misscecil @Scholastic

The Furies
Katie Lowe
St. Martin’s Press, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-29789-1
Hardcover

Theoretically, it may be a bit easier to handle the aftermath of a tragedy if someone close suffers the same horror. Certainly, an adolescent girl could expect her mother to understand and to bear the burden with her. Vivian’s mom does know the shock, the overwhelming ache of emptiness. It’s almost as if she found a way to absorb it. Vivian no longer sees her mom, there is only a hollow shell where the warm, caring soul should still be.

Perhaps Vivian, too, would have just faded away, if not for the opportunity to attend the prestigious Elm Hollow. A curious campus—that, of course “has a history”—and the intriguing course-structures were appealing. But it was watching the girls making their way from class to class that truly began to stir something inside of Vivian. For the first time, in a long time, Vivian felt like learning again. Looking forward, making friends, maybe even dating: thoughts that had been gathering dust in the back of her brain tentatively slunk forward.

Young ladies gathered in pairs, loose groups and a few had chosen solo spots and were sprinkled throughout. One thing seemed the same, though. All seemed…content.

Ok, not “all”.

There are three…or to be more accurate, there is a trio standing out. Admittedly, the righteous red of Robin’s hair is impossible to miss, but Vivian is pretty sure there’s an undercurrent connecting the clearly-close friends. Inexplicably drawn to them, Vivian feels her heart beat again when she is welcomed into their fold.

Ms. Lowe doesn’t allow the uplifting illusion to linger.

As Vivian embraces all of Elm Hollow her mind happily gathers information, albeit by bits and pieces. She soon learns enough to put together a surprising, scary picture. Relationships are not new; backgrounds are tangled, gnarled roots and Vivian has been snagged. Entirely on her own, she will become eternally ensnared in Elm Hollow, or she will have to hack her way out.

I cannot wait to take this suck-you-in-and-spin-you-story to “my” students next month!

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2019.

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Don’t Cosplay With My Heart
Cecil Castellucci
Scholastic Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-12549-8
Hardcover

This Young Adult novel begins with (what I hope is) an atypical teen scenario. Completely overcome by complicated, conflicting emotions…currently manifesting as mainly anger, Edan dons her Gargantua mask before sitting down to her final family dinner. For the foreseeable future.

She didn’t know much about her dad’s business, other than his firm handled payroll for several Hollywood productions. Lately, she’s heard whispers of misappropriated funds and missing money. Now, her father is being sequestered. But this is not a tale of white-collar crime. Although, that may be a bit more pertinent to the plot than I initially anticipated.

To me, the story is about Edan’s exponential growth as life forces her into self-discovery and independence at a wholly unanticipated time. Sort of like learning to swim by being thrown into the water, having never even contemplated swimming lessons. And Edan is truly alone.

Her best bud, Kasumi, is spending the summer in Japan. Their conversations are quick and Kasumi seems so happy that Edan cannot bear to burden her with what’s happening at home. Edan has to do something to get out of the house and more importantly, out of her own head. Attending her first Comic Con, solo, should do the trick.

Despite her admiration and adoration of all things Team Tomorrow, the best comic-book ever, Edan didn’t know much about the fan-filled conventions. And, aside from the recent addition of the Gargantua mask to her attire, she absolutely knew nothing of cosplaying. After attending only one con though, Edan was wholly hooked and, with a goal: “…learn how to make a costume so great that it pulls me right out of my misery and changes my life.”

I appreciate the realistic and relatable mistakes Edan made, as well as how she corrected them. And, I’m always particularly fond of friendships formed in the most unlikely of places. I found this to be fun and entertaining, without being cotton-candy fluffy.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2018.

Book Review: Rival by Cindy R. Wilson @CindyRWilson @EntangledTeen @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Rival
Author: Cindy R. Wilson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: October 7, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Entangled Publishing

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Rival
Cindy R. Wilson
Entangled Teen, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-64063-351-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

For years, our families have had one rule: We leave them alone. They leave us alone.
When Juno caught me scavenging for supplies in her family’s territory, I had no idea that the war between our two families was about to be pushed to the edge.

But she takes a chance on me. Trusts me. Lets me go.

Now there’s a greater threat to both sides. Someone’s stealing from my family, too.

And it’s up to me to find the thief before anyone else. Because if I can’t, both sides will blame each other. Rule broken. Game over. No one wins.

My only ally is Juno. The one girl I can’t be found with. The one girl who tempts me like no other. She’s the definition of off-limits. If our families knew how we look at each other, and kiss each other…

Star-crossed doesn’t even begin to describe our fate.

I’ve always been fascinated with the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys that lasted through much of the latter half of the 1800’s on the West Virginia/Kentucky border so, when I first saw the description of Rival, I hoped this would be a fitting re-telling of that inter-family war. I’m happy to say that Ms. Wilson has done a really good job with this.

Re-framed in a future time when conditions are dismal and people are struggling to survive, this also offers a nod to Romeo and Juliet in a sort of disjointed manner and the two threads combine into a tale that held my attention all the way through. Juno and Pillar have a friendship that has allowed them to survive a harsh life and, when Maddox ventures into their community’s territory, a hope for peace between the warring sides is born, if only tenuously. First, Maddox and Juno have to learn to trust.

Although I’m not generally a fan of the kind of angsty romance we usually see in young adult fiction, it works here, maybe because they really do have to overcome the hatred and distrust that have been bred into them. Ms. Wilson has gotten my attention with this story and I’ll be looking forward to many more.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

An Excerpt from Rival

It was Maddox who’d broken the rules this time.

He reached for the lock on the storage room door then froze. It was undone. Wait—had he forgotten to lock it? Or had someone else been by? It was a simple lock, probably easy to pick, but they’d never had problems before.

He opened the door and felt around for the flashlight that hung on the closest hook—one of several he was pretty sure Theo had stolen from the people by the bridge.

He cursed the moment his eyes adjusted.

No, no, no. He shone the flashlight around the room, shock waves rolling through his body. When he’d illuminated every dark corner of the room, his heart dropped to his feet.

Things were missing. Half of their supplies and food were gone. Lanterns, flashlights, cans of beans…so many things missing.

It had to be a mistake. Maybe Theo moved some things, or his mom. But why would they do that? No one was allowed to take anything unless they had permission from the community leaders, and even then, it was only in the direst of circumstances. His mom and Theo were big believers that each family or individual took care of their own needs and only got handouts if the leaders agreed.

He reached overhead and pulled open cupboards, the doors banging against each other. Then he ducked down to the lowest shelves, but he couldn’t find much. Theo hadn’t said anything about moving supplies, had he?

Maddox swallowed, mind racing back to the girl on the beach. Someone had stolen from her, too. He hadn’t believed it. Or at least, he hadn’t believed someone from his community could have done it. But now…he wasn’t sure.

It looked like the girl on the beach might not be the only one who was dealing with a thief.

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About the Author

Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You’ll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.

Author Links:

Website //  Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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