Synopsis from Goodreads: Robert "'Cali" Callahan is a teen runaway, living on the streets of Venice Beach, California. He's got a pretty sweet life: a treehouse to sleep in, a gang of surf bros, a regular basketball game...even a girl who's maybe-sorta interested in him. What he doesn't have is a plan. All that changes when a local cop recommends Cali to a private investigator who is looking for a missing teenager. After all, Cali knows everyone in Venice. But the streets are filled with people who don't want to be found, and when he's hired to find the beautiful Reese Abernathy, who would do anything to stay hidden, Cali must decide where his loyalties truly lie.
My take: If you read my review of We Are the Goldens last week, you know that I'm a big fan of sparely-written contemporary books. And Prince of Venice Beach, at a slim 240 pages, falls into that category for me. I've never read any of Blake Nelson's other YA books, but this one impressed me. It's a tightly focused story of a street kid and his (perhaps brief) foray into PI work.
What did I love most? The carefree yet sinister atmosphere of Venice Beach that the book evokes. In the story, the beach is the a haven he counterculture, slightly sketchy trailer park residents, and runaway teens. Cali is a also runaway, but he's landed on his feet, living in the treehouse of a kindly, free-spirited Good Samaritan and trying to decide whether or not he's interested in a nerdy-yet-special girl named Ailis. (I was shipping them hard - LOVED her.) When Cali is offered money to help find a missing person, he jumps on the chance, then begins to second guess his decision.
This book won't be for everyone, but it really worked for me. If you enjoy YA with a guy's POV and don't insist on having all the loose ends tied up in your reading, give this one a try!
by Lindsay Cummings
To be published by Greenwillow Books
on June 10, 2014
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss
Synopsis from Goodreads: Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision. The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?My take: I have not really been in the mood to read dark books as of late, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. The Murder Complex features a very cool setting (a post-apocalyptic Florida Everglades) and does a fantastic job of creating an overall dark and gritty mood. The writing style worked well for the genre -- I thought that the action scenes were very well-done, and there were plenty of them.
I had a few tiny issues. As often is the case in first books of dystopian/post-apocalyptic series, some of the backstory seemed a little murky. While I thought that the book's major plot twists were clever and unexpected, many of them were conveyed through big chunks of dialogue. The romance was a bit of a sticking point for me as well. I usually love me a tough girl/sweet guy pairing, but I never felt like I was seeing these two fall for each other in anything but a superficial way. (ETA: I see that some reviewers are calling the pairing insta-lovey, but the issue for me was that I wanted to really feel what drew them together. They kept talking about how much they loved each other, but I wasn't buying it completely.)
In the end, I was most emotionally touched by Meadow's relationships with her family and by the friendship between Zephyr and the funny, irreverent Talan. She was actually my favorite character and I was hoping that ... you can read the spoiler on Goodreads if you want. But all in all, I thought this was a promising debut. If you have read and enjoyed books like Reboot, you should definitely try this!