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Friday, September 23, 2016

Freebie Friday: Fall 2016 Titles!

Hi everyone!  Hope your September is going well. I really wish some fall weather would blow my way, but things seem to be improving. 

I have some FANTASTIC Fall 2016 ARCS and hardcovers up for grabs. I have two themed stacks and will be featuring one stack this week and one next. Winner can choose up to two books from the stack!

One theme:  Suspense -- this one is for those of you who love to be kept guessing
Another theme: Heartbreak -- this one is for readers who enjoy poignant tearjerkers

For a peek at the titles I'm featuring, check out my Insta: jenryland

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Just Finished Reading ... Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

by Jennifer Mathieu

Published on September 20, 2016
by Roaring Brook Press

Source: ARC from publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: When Caroline's little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can't help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can't see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend--and their best option just might be each other.
My take:  This was the first book I've read by Jennifer Mathieu but it will not be my last! Afterward was subtle and deeply moving! This is the second book I've read this month about kids who were kidnapped and then returned home (the other was The Lost and the Found.) Similar premises, but completely different stories -- and I enjoyed them both.

While The Lost and the Found was more of a suspense story, Afterward was about two families recovering from an unimaginable trauma: each had a son who was abducted, then returned to his family. The story is told in two POVs: that of Ethan, the first kidnapping victim, and also Caroline, whose autistic younger brother was later taken by the same kidnapper.

There were many things to appreciate about this book. Ethan's POV was so very moving -- he started out fragile and broken but after time and a lot of therapy, gained so much perspective and confidence. His therapy sessions were fascinating and heartbreaking (his therapist reminded me of Dr. Berger in Ordinary People). Caroline has her own challenges. She was supposed to have been watching her brother when he was kidnapped, and harbors a lot of guilt and self-blame about what happened. While Ethan's family is upper-middle class, Caroline's family is struggling both financially and emotionally. Neither she nor her brother has the luxury of therapists or a lot of familial support.

Caroline and Ethan develop an uneasy bond that develops into a friendship that helps them both process and recover from what happened to them.

Highly recommend this to readers who like stories with a lot of subtlety and psychological depth!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just Finished Reading... The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker by Kat Spears

The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker
by Kat Spears

Published on September 20, 2016
by St. Martin's Griffin

Source: eARC for review from publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Luke Grayson's life might as well be over when he's forced to go live in rural Tennessee with his Baptist pastor father. His reputation as a troublemaker has followed him there, and as an outsider, Luke is automatically under suspicion by everyone from the principal at his new school to the local police chief. His social life is no better. The new kid in town is an easy target for Grant Parker, the local golden boy with a violent streak who has the entire community of Ashland under his thumb.But things go topsy-turvy when a freak accident removes Grant from the top of the social pyramid, replacing him with Luke. This fish out of water has suddenly gone from social outcast to hero in a matter of twenty-four hours. For the students who have lived in fear of Grant all their lives, this is a welcome change. But Luke’s new found fame comes with a price. Nobody knows the truth about what really happened to Grant Parker except for Luke, and the longer he keeps living the lie, the more like Grant Parker he becomes.
My take: I've enjoyed all of Kat Spears's books. But I'll be completely honest: at first, I really wasn't sure about The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker. Despite the provocative title, this is a "quiet" book with a story that moves at a measured pace. But eventually, I was won over.

The book's premise is a really familiar one - new kid bumps up against the social order in a small town. Luke is a preacher's kid and not a bad kid at all, but when he moves to live with his father in a small Tennessee town, he keeps finding himself on the wrong end of everyone's expectations. I was getting a serious Footloose vibe, even though in the film it's Ariel, not Ren, who's the preacher's kid.

I don't want to give too much away about Grant except that, as the synopsis indicates, he's a bully who's used to getting his way. Luke's not afraid of him, and trouble ensues.

I'm pretty sure that in a review of another Kat Spears book, I said that her stories feel timeless, and I felt that way again reading The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker.  I actually love that her books don't try to be trendy, but explore YA themes that never get old: fitting in and standing out, chafing against rules and authority, having a crush on the wrong person when the right one is under your nose all along...  Her books make me nostalgic for the teen movies of my youth!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 20-26

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the September giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Shadow Bright and Burning Afterward Kids of Appetite
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess (Random House)
Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu (Roaring Brook)
Kids of Appetite by David Arnold (Viking)

Metaltown Ripple Stalking Jack the Ripper
Metaltown by Kristen Simmons (Tor)
Ripple by Heather Smith Meloche (Viking)
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco (Jimmy Patterson)

Three Dark Crowns Vassa in the Night Witch's Pyre
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (Harper)
Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter (Tor)
Witch's Pyre (Worldwalker #3) by Josephine Angelini (Feiwel and Friends)

Odds of Lightning Swan Riders Female of the Species
The Odds of Lightning by Jocelyn Davis (Simon Pulse)
The Swan Riders (Scorpion Rules #2) by Erin Bow (Margaret McElderry)
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (Katherine Tegen)

Frost Like Night The Dark Army Stealing Snow
Frost Like Night (Snow Like Ashes #3) by Sara Raasch (Balzer + Bray)
The Dark Army (Starblade Chronicles #2) by Joseph Delaney (Greenwillow)
Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige (Bloomsbury)

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Just Finished Reading: The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke

The Lost and the Found
by Cat Clarke

Published by Crown Books
on September 13, 2016

Source: ARC from publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: THE LOST: When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister, Faith. Since then, Faith’s childhood has revolved around her sister’s disappearance—from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention, to dealing with so-called friends who only ever want to talk about her missing sister. THE FOUND: Now, thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the front yard of the Logans’ old house, disoriented and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Can her sister finally be back? Faith always dreamed of her sister coming home; she just never believed it would happen. But soon a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated from her family and paranoid about her sister’s motives. Before long, Faith begins to wonder if it’s the abduction that’s changed her sister, or if it’s something else. . . .
My take: I have a weird fascination with stories about people who are possibly impersonating someone else. There's something fascinating to me about how we recognize others, what tiny quirks of behavior would convince us that a person is really someone familiar to us, and what tiny mistakes would convince us that person is actually an impostor.  I loved Homeland (or at least the first couple seasons...) and The Likeness by Tana French. There was a huge YA trend in this kind of books a while back, but that's died down a bit, so I was happy to see this book about a girl whose sister was abducted and then returns more than a decade later. Faith's parents are understandably and incredibly relieved to get their daughter back, but Faith feels more ambivalent about her sister's return. Who is this strange person and is she really Faith's sister?

There was a lot I did like The Lost and the Found. The story begins as Faith's now broken family receives the news that her missing sister Lauren has been found. I was impressed and moved at the way Clarke succinctly describes the toll that Lauren's disappearance has taken on the family. The girls' mother jumps every time the phone rings. Their parents have split up and their father moved in with a male partner. I thought it was an interesting choice to have Faith be so young when her sister vanished. I think a child that young wouldn't have clear and concrete picture of her sister -- just those odd, vivid, fragmented memories that we have of our childhood. Faith isn't sitting there picking apart the way her sister has changed; she just feels that something is off about her. Faith's lack of clarity about who her sister actually was felt frustrating at times, but it did work well in the story.

The Lost and the Found is fairly slow-paced -- enough so that it may bother some readers. I didn't mind the fact that it moved slowly, but must admit that at times I looked at the chunk of pages I'd read and thought "wow, not much has happened." I wouldn't call it a thriller -- the suspense is subtle and builds very gradually to a conclusion.

Recommended if you don't mind slow-building suspense -- I'll be giving this away tomorrow as part of Freebie Friday, so stop by if you're interested!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 13-19

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the September giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Song to Take the World Apart The Light Fantastic The Reader Dark Horses
A Song to Take the World Apart by Zan Romanoff (Knopf)
The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs (Candlewick)
The Reader by Traci Chee (Putnam)
Dark Horses by Cecily von Ziegesar (Soho)

Overdrive Gamescape Lost and the Found
Overdrive by Dawn Ius (Simon Pulse)
Gamescape: Overworked by Emma Trevayne (Greenwillow)
The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke (Crown)

Phantom Limbs Watched Fall of Hades
Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner (Candlewick)
Watched by Marina Budhos (Wendy Lamb Books)
Fall of Hades (Michael Vey #6) by Richard Paul Evans (Simon Pulse)

Pasadena When They Fade Girl on a Plane
Pasadena by Sherri L. Smith (Putnam)
When They Fade by Jeyn Roberts (Knopf)
Girl on a Plane by Miriam Moss (HMH)

Boy Who Killed Grant Parker Going Geek Shame the Stars
The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker by Kat Spears (St Martins)
Going Geek by Charlotte Huang (Delacorte)
Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu)

The Bombs That Brought Us Together DaVinci Code Radical
The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Monaghan (Scholastic)
The DaVinci Code: YA Version by Dan Brown (Delacorte)
Radical by E. M. Kokie (Candlewick)

The Forgetting Every Falling Star Last True Love Story
The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron (Scholastic)
Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan McClellan (Amulet)
The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely (Margaret McElderry)

About Phoenix Aluta Another Me Into White
About Phoenix by Nastasia Rugani (Annick Press)
Aluta by Adwoe Badoe (Roundwood)
Another Me by Eva Wiseman (Tundra)
Into White by Randi Pink (Feiwel and Friends)

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Just Finished Reading: Dark Horses by Cecily von Ziegesar

Dark Horses
by Cecily von Ziegesar
To be published by Soho Teen
on September 13 2016

Summary from Goodreads: Merritt Wenner has been self-destructing ever since the tragic deaths of her grandmother and her horse, and after an epic all-night bender she walks out of the SAT and disappears. Her parents, looking for a quick fix, ship her off to a residential equine therapy program. At Good Fences, Merritt meets Red—a failed racehorse and a terror in the barn. Red has never bonded with anyone, but Merritt is not afraid of him, which makes all the difference. Soon they’re sneaking rides after curfew, which catches the attention of Red’s owner. Recognizing their potential, he funds their launch into the competitive hunter/jumper circuit. Against the cutthroat backdrop of competitive riding, Merritt and their groom, Beatrice, develop an attraction. Merritt also finds herself drawn to Carvin, a rival rider. But in Red’s mind, Merritt belongs to him alone. Anyone else poses a threat. And Merritt can’t foresee what he’ll do to keep her to himself.
My take: I've been a fan of Cecily von Ziegesar since her Gossip Girl books. I liked the books; I liked the show. I'm also a fan of her writing, which I find sly and observant. She's great at creating characters -- especially female ones -- who are both flawed and sympathetic.

For me, Dark Horses was a bit of a mix. Happily, von Ziegesar's writing was true to form. The book opens with main character Merritt walking out of the SATs, getting drunk at the Oyster Bar, then staggering onto the Metro North to Connecticut, where she shows up at her dead grandmother's house. After that, she gets shipped off to an equine rehab program by her parents, who are too busy competing in extreme fitness events to tend to their obviously troubled only child. Then, one of Merritt's best friends turns Merritt's misfortune into a one-hit-wonder song reminiscent of Friday.

Now if that isn't campy, Gossip Girl worthy stuff, I don't know what is. All of that I liked a lot. I even didn't mind the fact that some of the story was narrated by a horse. Yes, a horse. Red-the-horse is as much of a free-spirited screw-up as Merritt, but of course these two misfits find each other and bond. I don't mind offbeat narrators -- I loved the POV of the pagoda in Please Ignore Vera Dietz -- and I think they can work. Red's perspective did add something to the story, but I also found his understanding of he world to be wildly inconsistent. He knows who Blue Oyster Cult is but doesn't understand a cigarette?

The relationship between Red and Merritt was definitely a little out-there. Freud had some theory about young girls and horses, but in this story Red was like a troubled stalker-y YA hero in horse form.  There was basically a love rectangle featuring three humans and a horse. The scene where Red (highlight for spoilers)murders Beatrice was classic Gossip Girl -- so over-the-top that it kind of worked.  I was sort of amused and horrified all at once.  And can horses really die from drinking wine?(end spoiler)

I can't fully explain without spoilers, but I thought that Dark Horses fell apart a bit at the end. The story starts off as sort of a wildly experimental retelling of Black Beauty -- a book in which a horse also narrates. But toward the end, the book began to fall back on too many YA tropes for my liking. Still, if you're a fan of horse books and/or unconventional narrative techniques, I'd advise you to check this one out.

I'll be offering this ARC up (along with some others) on Freebie Friday - be sure to stop by!
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