Book Review: Refraction by Naomi Hughes @NaomiHughesYA @PageStreetKids @The_FFBC

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Title: Refraction
Author: Naomi Hughes
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Amazon // Google Books // Indiebound

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Refraction
Naomi Hughes
Page Street Kids, November 2019
ISBN 978-1624148903
Hardcover

From the publisher—

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

There is much to like about this book but two things in particular really made me love it—(1) the main characters are boys and (2) there’s no romance. No, girls do not have to be the stars of everything 😉

Marty is a flawed character in any number of ways, not least of which is his propensity to do what’s best for himself even if it’s not legal or good for anyone else; in fact, he has been known to actually put others in harm’s way. Despite that, he works hard to control his OCD and his ultimate goal is to find his brother. Before the alien attack, Marty was making progress under therapy to manage his OCD but it’s much more difficult now without professional help and, of course, medication is no longer available.

Earth is in shambles after the aliens brought monsters and survival is predicated on a strict ban on reflective surfaces because that’s how the monsters get through. That ban, quite naturally, created a black market for mirrors and Marty is a player. When he gets caught by another teen, Elliott, both are headed for real trouble, sent into the deadly fog. The two boys are on their own and have to rely on each other, developing a real friendship as they come to know and trust each other.

The plot here is creative and well-planned, keeping me flipping electronic pages to find out what would happen next. The author’s characterizations are vivid and appealing and the monsters are just as scary as they should be…almost as much as Elliott’s mother. Also, not to repeat myself, it’s really refreshing to have a story focused on two boys.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, Novenber 2019.

About the Author

Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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Book Review: The Call of Death by R.J. Garcia @rj_dreamer @parliamentbooks @YABoundToursPR

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Title: The Call of Death
Author: R.J. Garcia
Publisher: Parliament House
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult

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The Call of Death
R.J. Garcia
Parliament House, November 2019
ISBN 978-1703743708
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Priestly crashes into a terrifying future. She wakes up in her dorm room now knowing the name of an infamous serial killer, Norman Biggs. He will attack her in the future unless she and her three male friends can change fate.

Hannah is a suntanned, obsessive-compulsive California girl dropped off at an English boarding school by her celebrity mother. Hannah has difficulty understanding algebra, let alone her increasingly dark visions. Rory Veer is Hannah’s smart, easy-going and romantically challenged friend and school crush. When Norman Biggs unexpectedly appears in Rory’s reality, terror is set in motion. It is Rory who must acknowledge a past he has denied if the mystery is to be unraveled.

This was a twisty ride for sure; imagine suddenly having “knowledge” of someone or something you shouldn’t and then discovering that this person will do serious harm to her in the future. In Hannah’s case, it’s a good thing she has friends to help her stop what’s going to happen. Those friends have become her family away from home at the boarding school and, of course, one of those friendships becomes something more but not so quickly as to seem inappropriate or rushed. That’s a really good thing, in my opinion, because these are young teens and we get to see them grow over a period of time, making the emotional attachments seem more natural.

Seeing one’s future must be unsettling, especially for a young girl who is just now learning about her psychic abilities. For Hannah and the reader, it means sudden flips of time, keeping us all on tenterhooks until various threads begin to come together and Hannah and her friends reach a surprising yet satisfying conclusion.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

About the Author

R.J. Garcia is a wife and proud mom. She earned her MSW and worked with foster children and as a school social worker. Writing has been her other great love. She has published several non-fiction pieces. She has been writing short-stories for as long as she can remember. To her amazement, those short stories became novels!

Author Links:
Website // Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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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.

A Teeny Book Review Trio @dpeterfreund @ABRAMSbooks @martywingate @BerkleyMystery @atticalocke @mulhollandbooks

In the Hall with the Knife
A Clue Mystery #1
Diana Peterfreund
Harry N. Abrams, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-4197-3834-0
Hardcover

I whiled away many, many hours with friends years ago playing Clue, one of the best board games ever, and then I fell in love with the game-based movie starring Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Brennan and the rest of a wonderful cast. A series of novelizations came along; a new movie is in pre-production and there was a movie or mini-series (hard to tell which) that bears no real resemblance and I wasn’t impressed. Now, there’s a new book and, I must say, I had a lot of fun with this.

Ms. Peterfreund has turned this into a teen cast and they all have names that fit the game, names such as Finn Plum and Scarlet Mistry. Rather than a gloomy mansion with guests who must discover a murderer before they’re all killed, we have a small group of students who are stranded in their forest-bound school with the headmaster who is soon found murdered. The game is on, not only to find the killer but to figure out who can be trusted and who has much to hide. Readers of all ages will really enjoy this.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

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The Bodies in the Library
A First Edition Library Mystery #1
Marty Wingate
Berkley Prime Crime, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-984-80410-5
Hardcover

Hayley Burke recently started her dream job as curator of a book collection focused on the women authors of the Golden Age, authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. The late Lady Georgiana Fowling’s personal assistant and now permanent The First Edition Society secretary, Glynis Woolgar, views Hailey with suspicion but she hasn’t figured out the curator’s big secret yet—while Hayley has experience with libraries and literature, she knows next to nothing about the Golden Age or, in fact, mysteries and detectives. The two women do NOT see eye to eye on how Hayley is running things, including hosting a fan fiction writing group in the library, and things certainly don’t get better when a body is found in their own locked room mystery. To get to the answers she needs before her position as curator implodes, Hayley reads her first mystery, The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie, and is soon assisting the police with their investigation, whether they want her help or not.

Marty Wingate has been one of my favorite traditional mystery authors for some time although I’ve been seriously remiss about writing reviews. With this new series, she has created an ambience of the very Golden Age mysteries the Society promotes but with a charming modern-day setting and the de rigueur sleuthing works really well. Kudos to the author for what looks to be a clever and appealing new series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

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Heaven, My Home
A Highway 59 Mystery #2
Attica Locke
Mulholland Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-0-316-36340-2
Hardcover

Being a black Texas Ranger comes with its own set of problems, as you might expect, and Darren Mathews is indeed dealing with those issues as well as repercussions from his last case. On top of that, his own mother is blackmailing him, his marriage is strained and alcohol is getting the better of him. Investigating the disappearance of a young boy draws him back into the world of white supremacy when the Rangers think Darren is the best man to work with the local white sheriff because the boy, son of a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was last seen in a black community.

Darren is confronted by racial prejudice from the white people in town, including the sheriff, but also believes that Leroy Page, an elderly black man who saw the child, is not cooperating with the hunt for the boy. Darren’s friend, Greg, a white FBI agent, shocks Darren when he posits that Leroy just might be guilty of a hate crime in reverse. Could he be right?

Several threads in this story reflect the racial stress that has been growing in this country but Ms. Locke has a deft way with words and creates a kind of tension we don’t often see. Getting to the resolution of this disappearance is rough but I couldn’t look away until I knew what really happened.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

Book Review: The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess @nikkigrey_ @fluxbooks

The Quiet You Carry
Nikki Barthelmess
Flux, March 2019
ISBN 978-1-63583-028-6
Trade Paperback

Teens face many troubles. From typical to uniquely terrible, talked-to-death to barely touched; there is a tie that binds: this part of life is a different kind of tough.

The Quiet You Carry ponders points that may not be particularly prevalent in publishing yet, but actually affect many children today. Certainly domestic-abuse situations are beginning to be addressed and recently, I’ve read about characters in foster-care and adoption. Still, I’m admittedly overwhelmed with what I’ve learned here and a bit ashamed of my ignorance. Taboo topics turn to thoughtful talking points when Ms. Barthelmess brilliantly blurs lines.

Contrary to popular belief, first impressions are not always accurate. The very person that seems aloof and uncaring may have the biggest heart. Only, it has been so badly broken, on multiple occasions, that it has hardened in self-preservation. After all, enthusiasm and an earnest need to make a difference can definitely be dampened by a laborious, under-staffed system. Add in the horror humans inflict on one another, and that intuitive good nature is bound to become buried beneath metaphorical armor in a vain effort to hold onto the very last bit of a kind, caring and conscientious soul.

Abuse does not need to be physical to invoke very real pain and suffering. Victoria’s story is not just about how her father changed after her mother’s death. Equally important examples of manipulation in her parents’ marriage paint a bigger picture. Accompanying this sweet, sheltered teen through her trials and tribulations evokes every kind of tear, from heartache to hope. Being that teens tend to be resilient creatures; bending, never breaking, there is also some humor.

I cannot imagine a better way to enlighten and empower our adolescents.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2019.

Book Review: Speak No Evil by Liana Gardner @lkgg @VesuvianMedia @partnersincr1me

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Title: Speak No Evil
Author: Liana Gardner
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

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Speak No Evil
Liana Gardner
Vesuvian Books, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-944109-36-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

What if every time you told the truth, evil followed?

My name is Melody Fisher. My daddy was a snake handler in Appalachia until Mama died. Though years have passed, I can still hear the rattle before the strike that took her from me.

And it’s all my fault.

Since then, I’ve been passed around from foster home to foster home. I didn’t think anything could be as bad as losing Mama.

I was wrong.

But I will not speak of things people have done to me. Every time I do, worse evil follows. Now, the only thing I trust is what saved me years ago.

Back when I would sing the snakes calm …

There’s a certain vibe that comes with the mere idea of snake handling, a vibe that is a mix of religious fundamentalism, backwoods living and a touch of macho man. Most of us can’t begin to really understand why people engage in the practice but there’s no doubt we’re fascinated by it.

The young Melody is a tragic figure whose life has been in a downward spiral ever since her mother was killed by one of her father’s snakes and, through backflashes, we see what has happened to this child over the years. It’s not surprising, really, that Melody has stopped speaking, especially since her voice, as beautiful as it is, has not served her well. Can she find a way to explain why she stabbed a classmate and will she find release in the music she has always loved?

Ms. Gardner spins a tale that is full of emotion of all sorts and I found an immediate connection to this young girl. Various subject matters could have been overwhelmingly dark but the author finds the right amount of light and I think I’ll remember this book for a long time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

An Excerpt from Speak No Evil

Uncle Harlan slammed my bedroom door open. “You’re going to learn to show the Lord respect, girl.” He grabbed my neck and forced me to walk in front of him.

My neck hurt where he dug his fingers in.

He took me outside and shoved me toward the shed. He slipped the key in the lock and removed it from the hasp. The door creaked as it opened and then he thrust me through.

“I’m not going to allow you to follow your mother’s footsteps. You’ll learn to make peace with snakes and not show them any fear. Or else.”

He grabbed a snake case from the shelf, put it on the ground, and opened it. He stepped backward out of the shed and swung the door shut. The latch clicked. Uncle Harlan on one side of the door, and the snake and me locked inside.

“I’ll come get you in time for school in the morning.”

His footsteps receded.

Light filtered through the cracks in the shed slats. In the dim light, the snake coiled in the corner, its tongue flicking out periodically. I slowly lowered to the ground and hugged Raksha Waya tight.

The inside of the shed was slightly warmer than outside. Staying warm might be a bigger problem than keeping the snake calm. It ignored me and remained coiled, but the cold seeped into my bones. I scanned the shelves. There had to be something in here I could use to help keep warm.

A tarp sat on a shelf on the opposite side of the shed from the snake. But I might not be tall enough to pull it down. Standing on tiptoes, I grabbed a corner and tugged. My fingers slipped. I set Rakkie on a lower shelf, then reached with both hands and tugged.

The weight of the tarp almost knocked me over as I caught it.

Making sure to keep my movements small so I didn’t threaten the snake, I unfolded the tarp and spread it out. Then I grabbed Rakkie and carefully crawled under a corner. Once settled with Rakkie on my lap, I pulled it over us and tucked it under my chin.

The hours passed as the light changed and moved through the shed. My tailbone ached and my back hurt from sitting still for so long. Twilight came. Surely Uncle Harlan didn’t really mean to leave me here with the snake all night.

When the darkness was complete and I could no longer see my hand in front of my face, I faced the hard truth—Uncle Harlan meant it. I’d spend the night locked in a small space with a pit viper.

While my toes still felt frozen, the rest of me was warmer with the tarp. My eyes drooped and closed. Then I heard it.

Hiss. Rattle. The whisper of something dragging across the floorboards.

The snake was on the move. The slight rattle as it slithered through the shed made my heart pound. I froze.

About the Author

Liana Gardner is the multi-award-winning author of 7th Grade Revolution (most recently the recipient of a 2018 Nautilus Book Award) and The Journal of Angela Ashby. The daughter of a rocket scientist and an artist, Liana combines the traits of both into a quirky yet pragmatic writer and in everything sees the story lurking beneath the surface.

Liana volunteers with high school students through EXP (expfuture.org). EXP unites business people and educators to prepare students for a meaningful place in the world of tomorrow. Working in partnership with industry and educators, EXP helps young people EXPerience, EXPand, and EXPlore.

Engaged in a battle against leukemia and lymphoma, Liana spends much of her time at home, but her imagination takes her wherever she wants to go.

Liana is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Catch Up With Liana Gardner On:
lianagardner.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

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Book Review: Dorothy in the Land of Monsters by Garten Gevedon @GartenGevedon @XpressoTours

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Title: Dorothy in the Land of Monsters
Series: Oz ReVamped #1
Author: Garten Gevedon
Publication Date: October 11, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Supernatural, Young Adult

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Dorothy in the Land of Monsters
Oz ReVamped #1
Garten Gevedon
Garten Gevedon, October 2019
Ebook

From the author—

Shifters, Zombies, and Vampires? Oh my!

My name is Dorothy Gale, and I think I might be dead.

When my dog Toto and I got swept up in a twister, we landed in hell. A very colorful hell. Like a rainbow dripping in blood. Now it looks as though this dreadful underworld plagued with vampires, zombies, and shifters will be the site of my eternal damnation.

They say this terrifying land called Oz isn’t hell or purgatory and escape is possible, but first I must survive the journey down the blood-soaked yellow brick road to the only place in Oz where vampires dare not tread—The City of Emeralds. 

With enchanted footwear and the help of my three new friends—a friendly zombie, a massive shifter lion, and a heartless axe murderer of evil night creatures (who also happens to be the hottest guy I’ve ever seen)—Toto and I have a chance to make it to the Vampire Free Zone. When we get there, I must convince the most powerful wizard in this magical land of monsters to send us out of this radiant nightmare and back to the world of the living. They say he’s just as frightening as this monstrous land, that he detests visitors, and even the most horrifying creatures cower in his presence. But I must seek him out. And when I find him, I’ll do whatever it takes to make him send me home.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Indeed, Dorothy and Toto are not in Kansas anymore but they’re also not in the Oz we all remember and love. Here, there are all kinds of scary creatures and Dorothy is seen by the Munchkins as a sorceress who has delivered the land from the Vampire Witch of the East. Now, she and Toto must find their way to the City of Emeralds in hopes that the Great Wizard will help them get back to Kansas. To get to the City, they have to follow the yellow brick road that is soaked in the blood of the victims of vampires and they’ll encounter quite the variety of sinister beings.

This is a story that offers a wonderful premise for any of us readers who love zombies and vampires and such things and I did enjoy it despite what I’ll call the Too Much Syndrome. Too much complaining about Kansas, too frequent use of the word “gray” to describe Kansas and Dorothy’s life, too much flowery descriptive language for Oz, too much romance that isn’t actually very appealing, too many words and pages. Essentially, I think a lot of these issues would have been remedied if the book had just been 100 or so pages shorter; its length made me weary at times (but not enough to stop reading because I did want to know how the tale would progress).

On a positive note, the snarkiness and sly humor here works really well and the author is creative without a doubt. That’s a pretty cool cover, too 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

About the Author

Garten Gevedon lives in New York City with her family. She’s a sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal author who loves taking fairy tales and turning them inside out. You can visit her online at www.gartengevedon.com.

Author links: 

Website — http://www.gartengevedon.com/
Twitter — https://twitter.com/gartengevedon
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/gartengevedon/
Bookbub — https://www.bookbub.com/authors/garten-gevedon
Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19120383.Garten_Gevedon

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