Book Review: A Prom to Remember by Sandy Hall


Title: A Prom to Remember
Author: Sandy Hall
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Genre: General Fiction, Young Adult


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A Prom to Remember
Sandy Hall
Swoon Reads, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-11914-8

From the publisher—

Cora: Dating Perfect Boyfriend Jamie. Has NO IDEA how to break up with him…

Paisley: Anti-prom. Somehow nominated her anxiety-ridden best friend for prom king…

Henry: Hates social situations. Invited to prom by the most popular girl in school. SEND HELP!

Otis: Half of one of the cutest couples in his class. Not quite ready for a post-prom hotel room…

Lizzie: Shy. Excited to go to prom. With a boy. Whose name she doesn’t know.

Cameron: Loner. Over high school. Just wants to meet the mysterious girl who’s been leaving him notes…

Jacinta: Unnamed Nerd Girl #3. Determined to become the star of her own life, starting with prom…

Back in the very long ago day, prom wasn’t a big thing in my life. In my junior year, I was dating an R.O.T.C. cadet from another school and we went to his Ring Dance the same night. I don’t remember what I was doing in my senior year but, for whatever reason, I didn’t go to prom. Still, that particular school dance was a big deal and, judging by the kids I see in their fancy dress having dinner, limos waiting, it still reigns supreme in high school today.

What I haven’t forgotten in all these years is all the angst and excitement and hopes and dreams that go along with prom and A Prom to Remember brought it all back with a look at seven kids and all their expectations. I came to love every one of these teens for one reason or another and would not have minded spending more time with them. This was a really fun read and I turned the last page grinning to beat the band…a good way to end a book, I think 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

About the Author

I’m a teen librarian from New Jersey where I was born and raised. I have a BA in Communication and a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. When I’m not writing, or teen librarian-ing, I enjoy reading, slot machines, marathoning TV shows, and long scrolls through Tumblr. A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT is my first novel.

Author links:  Website // Twitter // Goodreads


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Book Review: Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner



Title: Phantom Limbs
Author: Paula Garner
Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Genres: General Fiction, Young Adult



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phantom-limbsPhantom Limbs
Paula Garner
Candlewick Press, September 2016
ISBN 978-0763682057

From the publisher—

How do you move on from an irreplaceable loss? In a poignant debut, a sixteen-year-old boy must learn to swim against an undercurrent of grief—or be swept away by it.

Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.

I read a lot of young adult fiction but much more of the action-oriented type—science fiction, mystery, thriller, horror, etc.—than general fiction or the angsty high school drama kind. I don’t mean to be the least bit disparaging about that last one; I just don’t have a better term for it. Anyway, my point is that Phantom Limbs isn’t my usual cuppa tea….and, yet, I was interested.

Now, I happen to believe there’s at least a slight thread of mystery in nearly all fiction, even if it’s just the mystery of why people do what they do. That’s certainly the case here and there are other mysteries such as what really happened to that little boy years ago and why did Meg’s family leave town, almost run away?

Three characters share center stage and, while the relationship between Otis and Meg is important, especially in whether they can, or should, try to resurrect it, it’s Dara who grabbed my attention and held it. At turns caring, dictatorial, abrasive,  encouraging, Dara has every reason to resent what’s happened to her but she chose to use her skills in the best way possible by training someone else to be a champion swimmer. Does Otis appreciate it? Maybe not as much as she would hope and, now, Meg is distracting him even more.

This is a story of terrible loss that causes worlds to fall apart and the love that can make things just a little better. While Dara, Otis and Meg are frequently at serious odds, they also have much in common in their perhaps subconscious quests for happiness, and their journeys towards the future kept me reading into the night. Paula Garner has a lovely and effective way with words and I hope to read much more by her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2016.

About the Author

paula-garnerPaula Garner spends most of her time making food, drinks, and narratives, despite being surrounded by an alarming TBR pile and a very bad cat. Her debut YA novel, Phantom Limbs, comes out from Candlewick in 2016. Paula is represented by Molly Jaffa of Folio Lit, and lives in the Chicago area with her family.

LINKS: Website | Twitter


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Week 1:
9/5: Such A Novel Idea – Guest Post
9/6: The Litaku – Review
9/7: The Irish Banana Review – Top 10
9/8: Pretty Deadly Reviews – Review
9/9: Resch Reads and Reviews – Guest Post

Week 2:



Book Review: Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel

Faceless SheinmelFaceless
Alyssa Sheinmel
Scholastic Press, October 2015
ISBN: 978-0-545-67601-4

For a teenager, physical appearance is a huge part of the whole identity and self-esteem thing. Maisie Winters has both good and not so good in her life. Good is her running and Chirag, her boyfriend. Not so good is the way her parents fighting is becoming more frequent. One morning she is out running, trying to push herself to remember the prom invitation from the previous evening while hoping doing so will blot out the fight between mom and dad that forced her to stay on the porch instead of inviting Chirag inside so she could share that very special moment with her parents.

Even when she realizes a thunderstorm is approaching, she doesn’t turn back until it’s too late. Just before reaching home, lightning hits a big oak tree, burning a branch so quickly it falls across power lines that hit her before she can react.

A month later, Maisie comes back to reality partially immobilized in a hospital bed and most of her face is covered with sterile bandages. She’s been in a medically induced coma because her burns were so severe doctors didn’t think she’d survive the pain. As things stand, she has horrible burns and part of her face is gone. While she’s trying to understand just how bad her injuries are, and to what extent her life has changed, she’s offered a chance. She’s a candidate for a face transplant, but the decision has to be made quickly if she’s to get on the list.

A short time later, Maisie has new pain to go with a new face. While the transplant gives her back a nose, cheeks and a chin, there are more pills to be taken, she has to accept that the new face won’t feel real or normal for a while, she’s probably never going to be a mother because of all the drugs she’ll have to take and she’s still going to have visible scars on her face and lots of painful physical therapy ahead of her.

All that would be enough to drive a teen insane, but on top of this her parents begin fighting again, she feels depressed and can’t stand being seen. Her self-hatred causes her to isolate and eventually break up with Chirag because she knows he’s uncomfortable with her new face.

What saves her is a group she joins where other young people who have suffered severe injuries meet weekly to share their pain and what they’ve been able to do about it. She connects with Adam who is also a burn victim. His injuries happened while serving in the Marines. He suffered burns, but several of his buddies were killed or gravely wounded. It was very difficult for him to stop feeling anger and survivor’s guilt. Maisie is able to take his experience and new way of looking at life to heart and start her own return from the abyss.

That return isn’t easy, but reading about it restores your faith. This is a gripping book about how one girl deals with an unimaginable and horrific event. It would have been so easy for her to give up numerous times, but she perseveres and in the end, has not only hope, but gratitude. It’s an amazing read.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, March 2016.

Book Reviews: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg and Murder in Megara by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

The Lonely Hearts ClubThe Lonely Hearts Club
Elizabeth Eulberg
Point, January 2010
ISBN 978-0-545-14031-7

Penny Lane Bloom—her parents met at a makeshift shrine in a Chicago park the night John Lennon was shot—should hate the Beatles, but she accepts her parents’ fandom. After all, her older sisters are named Lucy and Rita, and all the family’s vacations have been spent in Liverpool.

The summer before her junior year in high school, long time friend Nate is pressuring Penny for sex. She resists, but she knows she and Nate are perfect for each other. But when she stops by for a surprise visit, he’s on the couch—with another girl.

While staring at one of the many Beatles posters in her room, Penny’s brainchild is hatched. She’ll quit dating loser guys, getting lied to, and enjoy the benefits of being single. It’s the Lonely Hearts Club, and if Penny is the only member, it’s just fine with her.

Reluctantly, her best friend Tracy joins her, and so does popular cheerleader Diane, who had just broken up with the school’s most popular athlete. Diane decides to quit cheerleading and with the support of the girls in the club, tries out for basketball.

This is an upbeat debut novel about girls and friendship. There is brief mention of sexual activity, underage drinking, and eating disorders, but it’s mostly about solidarity among girls. It’s a funny and fun choice for young adult readers.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2016.


Murder in MegaraMurder In Megara
A John the Lord Chamberlain Mystery #11
Mary Reed & Eric Mayer
Poisoned Pen Press, October 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0406-7

The eleventh novel is this fine historical series shows the usual careful and extensive research that are hallmarks of this writing team. The deposed Lord Chamberlain has left Emperor Justinian’s Court at Constantinople and taken his household to his family holdings near the seedy town of Megara which at that Byzantine time was part of Greece. It was located near Corinth and Athens. His appearance is not welcome as he upsets the routines and rhythms of the place and causes numerous rifts and tears in alliances both above and below board. Corruption is well-known and runs smoothly if not lawfully in Megara and John is causing waves. Within days murder is afoot and local authorities are quick to accuse the newcomer and members of his household of several crimes including murder and blasphemy. Sorting out the threats, staying out of jail and returning to favor of the Roman Court, not to mention staying alive, appears to be a pretty tall order.

The plot moves steadily forward, the pages of the novel are thickly peopled with interesting people and readers will enjoy the intimate views and thoughts of both high and low-born citizens. Since followers of the series understand that certain characters, regardless of the negative vicissitudes of life visited upon them, will survive, however there are several likeable and vulnerable characters about whom to speculate. Excellent enjoyable novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2016.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness and A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here
Patrick Ness
HarperTeen, October 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-240316-2

Surviving high school is a challenge even when you’re normal and as well adjusted as a teen can be, but what happens when you feel like you’re the least important in your circle of friends? What about when your mom is an elected official running for national office, your dad is an alcoholic afterthought and you have poorly controlled OCD? Dealing with all that might be overwhelming, you think, but what if the situation was a lot crazier and scarier than even that? Suppose your town and your school are ground zero for a cosmic battle, a repeat of one that wiped out the high school less than ten years ago? Now imagine that your best friend has powers beyond anything you could explain to a stranger and is worshiped by mountain lions. Add in the possibility that the ‘indie’ kids at school are supposed to save mankind and you have quite the situation.

This is what high school senior Mickey faces. He’s in serious like with biracial friend Henna, scared that his sister Mel, who almost died (she did briefly, but was brought back to life) from an eating disorder, will relapse and he’s distressed by the flare-up of his OCD. At the same time, he’s convinced that everyone tolerates him because, as he puts it, “I’m the least.”

As the craziness surrounding the possibility that zombies, ghosts and creatures affected by the ubiquitous blue lights may be about to defeat the ‘indie’ kids, teen readers will find the challenges Mickey, his sister Mel, Henna and best friend Jared are dealing with as graduation approaches are ones they can easily relate to. And the second layer of supernatural happenings is a nice counterpart to the sort of angst each of the main characters face as they begin to realize just how much life will change soon, no matter what else happens. This is a fun, quirky and emotional story about growing up and the insanity that accompanies that experience.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, October 2015.


A Little in LoveA Little in Love
Eponine’s Story from Les Misérables
Susan Fletcher
Chicken House, September 2015
ISBN: 978-0-545-82960-1
Trade Paperback

How do you think your life might turn out if you were born in a field, your father gambled away every cent and as a result, you were raised to hate and steal? Meet Eponine, one of the characters in Les Misérables. This is her story from the time she’s born to the day she’s lying in her own blood at age seventeen after a final selfless act. You know how the story ends because it’s in the first sentence in the book, an entry from June 5th, 1832.

When the book begins, Eponine is looking back to what her mother told her about when she was born. Her father was away at the battle of Waterloo, but spent more time robbing his fellow soldiers as they were dying than fighting. She describes him thusly: “His eyes were quick like a rat’s—quick and cunning and black”. He came home rich and bought an inn that was in terrible shape. He lied about the inn, about the war and pretty much everything.

No matter how successful the inn was, he found a way to make money, food and clothing disappear, so when Eponine and her younger sister Azelma became old enough, they were trained to steal from drunken patrons and then from the townspeople.

When she’s four, a woman appears at the inn with her daughter Cosette and offers to pay for the family to care for her because the mom can’t work and take care of Cosette at the same time. Instead, the girl is treated like a slave, starved, verbally and physically abused, as well as forced to do the most demeaning chores, sometimes multiple times. While Eponine feels uncomfortable treating the new girl abusively, she has little choice.

Eight years later, a man appears and ransoms Colette for 1500 francs, informing the family that her mother had died and asked him to find and care for her daughter. Of course, Eponine’s father gambles the money away and in desperation to keep the inn, commits a terrible crime. The family, which now includes a younger brother aged six and unwanted by the parents, flees for Paris under cover of darkness. The journey is arduous and leaves everyone hardened and on the edge of starvation. When her little brother is abandoned as the family boards a barely functional rowboat, Eponine’s heart shrinks painfully.

It’s this event that starts her looking inward and wondering whether there might be a better way to live than one of constant theft and cruelty. In Paris, the family live with a gang of thieves until they steal enough to get their own place. Eponine meets Marius, a young man who rents the room next to theirs. It is this meeting that really turns her heart around and even though she doesn’t stop doing bad things right away, she is able to figure out what she needs to do to have a sense of worth and purpose. How she gets to that point is sad, but understandable.

I have not read Les Misérables nor have I seen the movie. That didn’t stop me from enjoying this book and I doubt it will diminish the level of satisfaction when teens, particularly those who like stories of tough times or historical tales, read the book.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, October 2015.

Book Review: Fragile Line by Brooklyn Skye—and a Giveaway

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Title: Fragile Line
Author: Brooklyn Skye
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: April 21, 2014

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Fragile LineFragile Line
Brooklyn Skye
Entangled Teen, April 2014
ISBN 978-1-62266-529-7

From the publisher—

It can happen in a flash. One minute she’s kissing her boyfriend, the next she’s lost in the woods. Sixteen-year-old Ellie Cox is losing time. It started out small…forgetting a drive home or a conversation with a friend. But her blackouts are getting worse, more difficult to disguise as forgetfulness. When Ellie goes missing for three days, waking up in the apartment of a mysterious guy—a guy who is definitely not her boyfriend, her life starts to spiral out of control.

Perched on the edge of insanity, with horrific memories of her childhood leaking in, Ellie struggles to put together the pieces of what she’s lost—starting with the name haunting her, Gwen. Heartbreakingly beautiful, this poignant story follows one girl’s harrowing journey to finding out who she really is.

Two girls are the heart of Fragile Line, girls who seem to have absolutely nothing in common. Ellie is a “good” girl, one who does little to disappoint her parents and teachers. Ellie’s friends enjoy her company and know just how she fits into their lives and her boyfriend, Shane, is as devoted to her as she is to him. Gwen, on the other hand, is a child lost to a darker world, one who is dependent on very shady characters for sustenance of a troubling sort. Gwen’s surroundings would bring discomfort to most of us and the people she hangs out with are not the sort we’d want around our teens. A possible exception is a young man named Griffin but even he is questionable…or is it just that he’s the stereotypical bad boy?

These four characters are really the only ones who truly came to life for me but they’re enough. I liked them all to varying degrees but it was Gwen who really pulled at me. My attention was riveted on her because, in her own very damaged way, she’s the one who has the most to lose in this puzzling and frightening world that is consuming both Gwen and Ellie.

What’s really going on with Ellie is the mystery at the core of this story but it was apparent to me very early on, probably because I’ve had a years-long interest in the subject. My enjoyment of the story was not diminished in any way because I was really more drawn in by Ellie’s and Gwen’s experiences living with such an emotionally painful condition.

The premise behind Fragile Line is a familiar one but one of the hallmarks of a good writer lies in what that writer does with an oft-used theme and Ms. Skye shows herself to be more than competent. Her prose flows easily and it’s clear that care has been taken with editing while the plot itself is crafted nicely with only an occasional hiccup, usually having to do with my inability to believe in certain behavior. That could be due to my own knowledge of the subject rather than to any failing of the author. Ms. Skye tells a very good tale and I’ll be looking for more of her work.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2014.

About the Author


Brooklyn SkyeBrooklyn Skye grew up in a small town where she quickly realized writing was an escape from small town life. Really, she’s just your average awkward girl who’s obsessed with words. She writes young adult and new adult fiction. You can follow her on Twitter as @brooklyn__skye or visit her web site for updates, teasers, giveaways, and more.


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Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
MTV Books, August 2012
ISBN 9781451696196
Trade Paperback


This book was recommended to me by one of my high-school students.  I’m glad she made the recommendation; I am completely smitten with Charlie, in a big sister kind of way.  Sadly, I think I was missing the point.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told by Charlie, a high school freshman, via letters to “Dear Friend”. We quickly learn that he doesn’t feel the need to “fit in”; however, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that he is comfortable in his own skin.  “Wallflower” is definitely the most apt description. Although not necessarily content with it, he generally watches life happen.  When he does act, or more fairly, react, I wanted to cheer, to pat him on the back and say “there, you see, you CAN do it”.  This is not what Charlie needs to hear.

Throughout the freshman year letters, there are certainly allusions to Charlie having issues–more so than the typical teen.  I tried to diagnose.  Depression?  Too simple.  Asperberger’s Disorder?  Yeah, probably not.  I really didn’t expect a revelation, and I most certainly did not expect the issue that was revealed towards the end of the book.  I felt a bit guilty.  I almost want to read it again now, as if under a brighter light.  I won’t, it would feel like cheating.  I’ll just say that Mr. Chbosky created a lovable character, one that spans the generations—loved equally by my 15-year old student and me (a not-so-young adult).

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2012.