Never Always Sometimes

Yesterday, I finished reading Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid. (You may recognize the name from his previous book, Let’s Get Lost.) Anyway, this latest book, which comes out next Tuesday, is sort of a coming of age story that John Green fans will probably eat up. In fact, at various points, this book reminded me a bit of Paper Towns. If you’re a Nerdfighter, that’s probably all the recommendation you need.

In Never Always Sometimes, readers are introduced to Dave and Julia, best friends who have done their best to avoid becoming high school clichés. Before they even darkened the doors of high school, Dave and Julia made a Nevers List, a list of things they vowed never to do during their time in high school. Some of the items were:

  • #2 – Never run for prom king/queen, student body president, or any other position that would have its own page in the yearbook.
  • #5 – Never dye your hair a color found in the rainbow.
  • #8 – Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school.
  • #10 – Never date your best friend.

Now, almost four years later, just months before graduation, Dave and Julia have done a fairly good job of sticking to their Nevers List. Or so it seems.

Dave, for his part, has been in love with Julia for what seems like forever–breaking Never #8–but he keeps his feelings a secret so that he won’t ruin his relationship with his best friend.

One day, thinking she and Dave are missing out on the authentic high school experience, Julia suggests that they use the time before graduation to cross off every Never on their list. As is usually the case, Dave goes along with Julia’s crazy idea, and pretty soon, the two are dying their hair (and Dave is shaving his shortly thereafter), stalking a teacher, running a campaign for prom king, going to wild parties, and doing all the other things they’ve been disdainful of all this time.

Through all of this, Dave starts to realize that maybe he really has been missing out. This typical teenage stuff isn’t so bad, and it’s even pushing him to be social with people–girls–other than Julia. One girl in particular, Gretchen, catches his eye, and Dave begins to think that, as much as he still loves Julia, maybe he should let that hopeless crush go and move on.

What Dave doesn’t know (yet) is that Julia is coming to her own realizations. Maybe she too wants something more from her best friend, the guy who knows her better than anyone else. Maybe they should finally cross of Never #10 and see what happens. What could possibly go wrong?


How do I feel about Never Always Sometimes now that I’ve finished it and reflected a bit? Well, I’m still not sure. I think it’s a good book, maybe a tad unrealistic, but I kind of wanted to punch the main characters in the face several times when I was reading. Especially Julia. (I guess it’s good that I got so emotionally invested.) She seemed so self-centered to me throughout most of the book, and she tended to drag Dave down with her. Granted, he went–if somewhat unwillingly–most of the time, but I wanted both of them to wake up and see just how codependent they were.

As for the ending of the book, it took some doing, but it was sort of satisfying. I wouldn’t exactly call it happy, but given the events that preceded it, it really couldn’t be a totally happy ending for everyone. If anything, I would say that it was fitting and leave it at that.

For those wondering if Never Always Sometimes is suitable for middle grade readers, I would advise against it. It’s great for a YA audience, but the “sexy times” and rather unrepentant alcohol use and rule-breaking make the book much more suited to older teens. Whatever the reader’s age, I’d hope that all of them would have sense enough to know that some of the items on the Nevers List–like “never hook up with a teacher”–should remain Nevers.

As I said previously, Never Always Sometimes will be released to the masses on August 4th. (Many thanks to NetGalley for letting me read it a bit early.) If you’re interested in learning more about this book and author Adi Alsaid, you can connect with the author on Goodreads and Twitter. You may also want to take a look at the book trailer below. It’s a pretty good intro to Never Always Sometimes, but it doesn’t give too much away.

Happy reading!

We Are the Goldens

This morning, I finished a book that, honestly, made me kind of uncomfortable. The book is We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt. (I was lucky enough to read a digital ARC via NetGalley.) I say “uncomfortable” because this book takes a look at romantic relationships between teachers and students (EWWW!) and the toll a secret like that can take on someone.

As most of you know, I am an educator, so this topic is particularly unsettling. Personally, I find the very idea of romantic relationships between students and teachers to be nausea-inducing, but I have known others who felt differently. I’ve worked with some educators who were caught in compromising positions with students. (Most of them are no longer teaching. Sadly, a few escaped those circumstances relatively unscathed.) This is not a situation I’ve ever understood the appeal of, especially from a teacher’s standpoint. We Are the Goldens examines this odd relationship, but it shows readers how a family member of the student may react to what she discovers.

We Are the Goldens is written as a letter (of sorts) from a younger sister to the older sister she idolizes. The reader becomes, for all intents and purposes, the elder sister, and that allows a glimpse into the sibling dynamic that we often don’t see.

Nell Golden is a freshman at City Day School in San Francisco, and she has this fairy tale image of what high school will be like. She’ll follow in her perfect sister’s footsteps, and everything will be awesome. Her sister, Layla, however, seems to be pulling away from what was once a really close relationship with Nell. At first, Nell isn’t sure what’s going on with Layla, but rumors are swirling about her older sister, and eventually, those rumors make their way to Nell’s disbelieving ears.

There have always been stories about Mr. Barr, the popular, young, good-looking art teacher. Every year, it seems that he’s supposedly hooking up with one of his students, but nothing has ever come of the rumors. This year, though, the stories focus on Mr. Barr and Layla. One person sees them at an art gallery. Another sees them exiting a hotel together. When Nell’s best friend, Felix, tells her what’s being said about Layla, Nell is at once furious and defensive. Her sister’s smarter than that, right? There must be some reasonable explanation.

When Nell confronts Layla with the gossip, Layla does have a plausible reason for being seen with Mr. Barr…but Nell remains suspicious, especially considering that her sister is withdrawing from her friends, her family, and is becoming more evasive by the day. One night, Nell walks in on her sister video-chatting with Mr. Barr, and she realizes that the rumors about her beloved sister are all too true. What is Nell supposed to do now?

Layla swears Nell to secrecy and confesses that she’s in love with Mr. Barr. She knows no one will understand their relationship, so Nell can’t tell anyone, especially not their parents. Nell struggles with this. She knows Layla’s relationship with Mr. Barr is wrong, but how can she turn on the one person she loves most in the world? Nell agrees to keep Layla’s secret, but it’s growing increasingly difficult to maintain her cool over this situation.

Nell has her own life to worry about as well. Being on the soccer team and in the school play. A crush on a popular guy who her sister warned her away from. Worries with becoming a target of the rumor mill herself. Nell’s best friend is also going through some tough stuff, and she wants to be there for him. Keeping Layla’s secret on top of everything else is wearing on Nell, and she’s about to break.

Read We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt to learn how one girl struggles with being loyal to the person she loves most while doing what she knows is right.


While part of this book focuses on the relationship between a teacher and a student, a larger part centers on the relationship between sisters. Sisters keep secrets–from their parents, from friends, from other family members or authority figures. At what point, though, should secrets be revealed? In We Are the Goldens, Nell wrestles with that. Where should loyalty end? Nell wants to keep her sister–and everyone else around her–happy, but what is the cost? Eventually, Nell comes to terms with what she must do, no matter how it might damage her relationship with her sister.

Now, I am an older sister, and I know that my little sister would tell in a skinny minute if I were doing something wrong or potentially harmful. I would do the same for her. This book, then, made me examine would I would have done if I’d been put in a similar position. (If you’re curious, I would have told someone immediately. Of course, I’m a tattle-tale from way back.) I think any reader who has siblings will be able to relate, at least a little bit, to the characters in We Are the Goldens. Maybe it’s a younger sibling worried about the choices an older brother or sister is making. Maybe it’s an older sibling looking out for little brothers or sisters. Either way, I think this book will resonate with anyone who has ever kept a secret for a sibling.

We Are the Goldens is a quick, intriguing book that definitely has a place in most YA collections. Even though I found some of the plot-line kind of icky, I was curious to see how things would play out for Nell and Layla. And even though the end of the book didn’t provide a ton of closure, I was totally satisfied with it. The author left things for the readers to imagine for themselves.

If you’d like to add We Are the Goldens to your personal, school, or public library collections, it will be released to the masses on May 27th. For more information on this book and others by Dana Reinhardt, check out her website and Twitter page.

Social Suicide

Note: It’s probably a good idea to read Deadly Cool before reading the sequel, Social Suicide. (It’s not absolutely critical, but I would highly recommend it.)

I read Deadly Cool, the first book in this series by Gemma Halliday, a couple of weeks ago, and I immediately ordered the second, Social Suicide. (It didn’t hurt that Amazon had it on sale as a bargain book!) Well, the book arrived at my house last week, and, as soon as I finished up with a couple of other books I was reading, I made the time to dive into Social Suicide. Just like Deadly Cool, this second installment is a bit of brain candy. It’s a murder mystery, but it also gives readers a glimpse into the mind of a teenage girl who seems to attract trouble wherever she goes. I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to that along with the main character’s distinctive voice.

Hartley Featherstone, after having solved the mystery of who killed tried to frame her cheating ex-boyfriend, is attempting to put her investigative skills to use by writing for the school paper. (She’s also hoping to figure out her rather complicated relationship with Chase, the paper’s editor.) Her current assignment involves writing a piece on a cheating scandal that booted a popular girl, Sydney Sanders, off the homecoming court. Should be an easy enough story, right?  Well, “easy” doesn’t seem to apply to Hartley’s life. Almost immediately, this story embroils Hartley–once again–into a saga of intrigue, corruption, danger, and death…

Hartley was supposed to have a simple interview with Sydney. What she discovered, however, was this homecoming hopeful face-down in a pool. Everyone seems to think Sydney’s death is a suicide (because of the cheating scandal and possible boyfriend/best friend drama), but Hartley isn’t convinced. After all, who commits suicide in the middle of a tweet? It’s up to Hartley and her crew of friends to prove that this Twittercide was in fact murder. But how? And who had motive to kill Sydney?

Suspects–and potential motives–abound, and Hartley quickly becomes ensnared in yet another mystery. Can Hartley get out of this mess while holding onto the story of a lifetime? Will she be able to prove to everyone that Sydney was murdered? How? Who could have done this? Why would anyone murder one of the most popular girls in school?  The answers to these questions will shock everyone, and even Hartley will be surprised when the truth is finally revealed. So surprised that she never sees the danger to her own life until it’s staring her in the face. Unravel the mystery when you read Social Suicide by Gemma Halliday!

I enjoyed this sequel just as much as I did Deadly Cool…even though I predicted who the villain was pretty early on. Unless you’re really paying attention, though, the clues as to the bad guy’s identity could escape you. It’s not exactly obvious…which makes Social Suicide a pretty good mystery.

Teens and adults alike will enjoy the mystery aspect of the book, but readers may also relate to Hartley’s boy drama, fashion woes, and dealing with her mom reentering the dating world. (Some of this was cringe-worthy even to me.) Even though some of Hartley’s antics stretch the bounds of reality–particularly regarding what a typical teen can get away with–readers will find her totally relatable. She has problems and flaws, but she keeps on keeping on, often with humor and a bit of sass.

According to Gemma Halliday’s website (which is now working, thank goodness), we can expect more adventures with Hartley and company late this year. The third book in this series is Wicked Games. I know nothing about this book beyond the title. Hopefully, details will be up on the author’s website soon.

Dead Silence

Caution!  You’ve GOT to read the first three books in Kimberly Derting’s creeptastic Body Finder series (The Body Finder, Desires of the Dead, and The Last Echo) before reading the fourth book, Dead Silence. Each book builds on the one before it, and all of them are pretty great. If you’re looking for a wonderful supernatural mystery series, you definitely want to give this one a try!

I’m not sure what’s going on, but lately I’ve been craving a good mystery. Maybe I’m just experiencing Sherlock withdrawals, but the past two books I’ve read have been mysteries, and I’m only craving more. Within the next week or so, I’m hoping to read Social Suicide, the sequel to Deadly Cool, and Game, the sequel to Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers–both mysteries. (Of course, I’m watching my share of mysteries on the telly as well:  Ripper Street, Criminal Minds, all the Law & Order reruns I can handle, etc. Good stuff.)

Anyway, my latest read, Dead Silence is the fourth book in The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting. This entire series is awesome, and this fourth book definitely went a long way in satisfying my longing for a good mystery. (I’d probably be even more satisfied if I knew there would be more books in this series!) Dead Silence is a real page-turner, and it lives up to the three books that preceded it, and I would definitely recommend the entire series to anyone who likes a bit of woo-woo, supernatural stuff with their mysteries.

Dead Silence continues to follow Violet, who can sense echoes of those who have been murdered. She can also sense the imprints of those echoes on the murderers. Her “gift” has gotten her into some dangerous situations. She’s even been a target of a serial killer herself. That experience left Violet with more than just horrible memories. She now carries an imprint herself, for she had to kill or be killed. It’s a lot for any teenager to handle, but Violet is not like most teenagers…

With the help of a therapist she can’t stand and a team of other “gifted” individuals (who she’s learning to tolerate), Violet is coming to terms with her abilities…even the imprint that disturbs her waking and sleeping hours. She still feels the pull of the echoes of the dead, but maybe–just maybe–she can control her desire to find the dead and those who killed them.

Then again…maybe not.

When Violet is led to a murdered family, it’s clear that she’s leaping before she looks yet again. Once more, she finds herself involved in an investigation that will lead her down some dangerous roads…roads that she may not be ready to travel. For this murder scene is not like most others. A strange symbol has been left in blood at the crime scene, a daughter is missing, and one of the bodies is missing an echo. Violet knows this person was murdered, but where is the echo? And if there’s no echo, is there no imprint on the killer?

Violet will find some of the answers she’s seeking in an unexpected place–her grandmother’s journals. Her grandmother shared the same gift Violet has, and she documented a lot of what she went through…including what a missing echo could mean. Grandma also wrote about a group of individuals gathered together, all of them with odd abilities. Violet will learn more about her gift, but she may also learn more than she expected about her own team…and who may have brought them together.

As Violet searches for answers about her own life and team, she’s also trying to figure out who could have possibly murdered an entire family…and possibly many others. Who is this madman, and how is he controlling those around him, convincing them to do his bidding? What hold could he have on them, and what led him to kill?

Violet will have to lie to everyone she cares about in order to solve this mystery…but is she really prepared for the consequences of so many lies? And when the truth is finally revealed, what could it mean for Violet and those closest to her? Can Violet keep her friends and family safe when chaos, pain, and death seem to follow her? Is there any way to balance her desire to use her gift for good with her need for a “normal” life? Is “normal” even possible? Unravel the mystery when you read Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting.

Once again, this post doesn’t come close to capturing how amazing I think this book is. I was captivated from start to finish, and I REALLY hope there are more books in this series. (Considering the way things ended, I’m hopeful, but I can’t find any mention on the interweb of more Body Finder books. Bummer.) As I was reading Dead Silence, I was also halfway watching a documentary about the Manson family. The similarities between that notorious group and the bad guy(s) in this book are very noticeable and thought-provoking, and it makes this book an even more engrossing read.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book to middle grade readers, simply because some of the imagery is kind of graphic. (Of course, they probably see worse when playing Call of Duty.) There’s also a couple of steamy scenes (nothing gratuitous) that younger readers may not be ready for. (Again, this is not true for all readers. Some young ones are probably have more experience with this than I’m comfortable admitting.) Like I’ve said before, know your readers and what they can handle. Recommend books accordingly.

If you’d like more information about Dead Silence, the rest of the Body Finder series, and other books by Kimberly Derting, visit You may also want to check out the Dead Silence book trailer below. It doesn’t give too much away, but it kind of makes Violet seem creepier than she is in the books. Just my opinion…

Deadly Cool

Although this book has been on my shelf for a while, I didn’t start reading Gemma Halliday’s Deadly Cool until earlier this week. I picked it up because I was growing frustrated with Reached (which I did eventually get into), and I needed something that wasn’t terribly deep to jump-start my reading progress. Deadly Cool definitely did that. Even though it is a murder mystery, this book also serves as a bit of brain candy. Yes, you’re trying to put together clues along with the main character, but Deadly Cool is also about the woes of a modern high school girl. (Of course, most teen girls don’t have to worry about finding a body in the closet of their cheating scumbag boyfriend.)

Hartley, the book’s main character, has a totally believable voice (even if the situations she finds herself in are kind of out there), and, though her current circumstances are somewhat less than desirable, Hartley seems to keep her wits about her. She retains a bit of humor, and that is as refreshing as it is unexpected.

Hartley Featherstone thought her boyfriend was wonderful and completely devoted to her. Imagine her surprise when she realizes he’s been canoodling with Courtney Cline, the president of the Chastity Club. Hartley is spitting mad, and she decides to confront Josh at his house. Unfortunately, he’s not there…but someone is. Hartley, and her trusty BFF Sam, make a gruesome discovery when they open Josh’s closet. It’s none other than Courtney Cline herself…and she’s been strangled to death with a pair of iPod earbuds.

Of course, Hartley finds herself at the center of the investigation into Courtney’s death. Almost everyone seems to think that Josh is the killer. Everyone except Hartley. Sure, he cheated on her and is a world-class liar and butthead, but that doesn’t make him a killer. Does it? Hartley just needs to find a way to prove Josh’s innocence…and Josh, now on the run, is depending on Hartley to clear his name.

Hartley follows every lead she can in this case. Some the police know about, some they don’t. (It’s pretty easy to believe that the cops wouldn’t know all of the secrets, lies, and rumors that run rampant in a modern-day high school.) Hartley is assisted by her best friend and the enigmatic Chase, editor of the school’s online newspaper and oddly hot guy who lives next door to Josh. (How did she never notice this bad boy before? Yet another mystery.) Clues are coming at them from a variety of sources, and these amateur detectives will be led in some directions that are promising…and deadly.

When Hartley discovers another girl that’s been killed, she becomes even more determined to find out who the real killer is…before she’s the next victim. Who is committing these heinous crimes? Is the murderer right under her nose? Can Hartley get out of this nightmare with her wits–and her life–intact? Solve the mystery when you read Deadly Cool, the first book in a thrilling series by Gemma Halliday!

Deadly Cool is a really fast, fun read that I think a lot of mystery fans will enjoy. It’s a nice bit of fluff, but it still kept me on the edge of my seat. I had no idea who the real killer was until the very end of the book. (I had ideas on who it wasn’t, but I honestly didn’t see the truth of the killer’s identity–and the reasons for killing–until Hartley herself did.)

This book, in my opinion, would be fine for older middle school readers–and high school readers, especially females, will probably love it. There is some talk of sexual situations, but it’s not extremely blatant. Everything remains true to the tone of the book and is fairly true to life as well.  Even the violence and descriptions of murders is understated.

I liked Deadly Cool so much that I just ordered the sequel, Social Suicide, from Amazon. (It was a bargain book–only $3.60!–and I think I got the last copy!) Hopefully, I’ll make time to read it as soon as it’s delivered to my house. The third book, Wicked Games, is supposed to be released sometime this year, but I couldn’t find anything official on Goodreads or Amazon. The author’s website wasn’t working today either, so that was a no-go for information on future books.

You can follow author Gemma Halliday on Twitter @gemmahallidayca or like her Facebook page.


There are several unread books on my shelves that have been there for years.  One of my goals this year (and next year) is to get around to reading some of these books (mainly to make space for even more books).  This week, I decided to take a break from reading Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue (which is awesome…but long) and read one of these sadly neglected books on my shelf–Inexcusable by Chris Lynch.  This book was released in 2005, and I’ve been meaning to read it but never got around to it until now.  It’s a short, fast read that will appeal to reluctant readers, and the subject matter–what can only be called date rape–is a topic that should be explored with any and all teens.

Keir Sarafian is a “good guy.”  Ask anyone.  He doesn’t get into too much trouble.  He’s a great son and brother.  He’d rather cut off his own arm than hurt anyone close to him.  So, it’s absolutely impossible that he could have done what Gigi–the love of his life–is accusing him of.  No.  He absolutely couldn’t have raped her.

As Keir tries to figure out why Gigi is saying these awful things, he reflects back on the past year.  He thinks about the good times and bad, things he could have done differently, mistakes he made, and whether or not he really is a “good guy.”  What could have possibly led him to this point, and what will happen to him now?  Is there any way he can convince Gigi that this is all some huge mistake?  Or is Keir’s biggest mistake believing that he couldn’t do something this horrible?

It becomes clear to the reader pretty quickly that Keir is not the “good guy” he’s built himself up to be in his own mind, but it is interesting to see his thought processes.  What makes someone so delusional that they can’t see what’s right in front of them?  In Keir’s case, I think we can partially blame his father, who sees nothing wrong with getting wasted with his teenage son.  We can also partially blame sports culture.  This idea that athletes are above the law does nothing to help these guys when the you-know-what really hits the fan.  Mostly, though, the blame lies with Keir, who fails to take a long, hard look at his own actions.  It seems he’s always pushing the fault onto someone else’s shoulders.  After all, he’s a “good guy,” and he couldn’t possibly do something really bad.

In my opinion, Inexcusable is a good book for teen readers, especially those who don’t quite understand the true meaning and seriousness of date rape.  Some of the content and language is mature, so I wouldn’t put this book in the hands of middle grade readers.

Another book on this topic that you may want to consider is The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney.  While Inexcusable looks at date rape from the male’s point of view, The Mockingbirds looks at the female perspective and what a girl can do to fight back when something this horrible happens to her.  Of the two of these books, The Mockingbirds is probably my favorite, and I will hopefully find time to read the sequel, The Rivals, soon.

Dreaming Awake

Warning!  Read Falling Under before proceeding.  If you don’t, you will be totally lost without any hope of finding your way out!  (Sorry.  Dreaming Awake messed with my head a little bit, and I’m still kind of stuck in the world depicted in this captivating yet disturbing story.)

A little over a year ago, I read a really cool book called Falling Under.  This book by Gwen Hayes was the very definition of the word “macabre.”  It was at once haunting and beautiful.  Well, this week, I finally got around to reading the sequel, Dreaming Awake, and everything I felt about Falling Under definitely applies to the second book.  Dreaming Awake picks up where Falling Under ended, and it further explores the extremely complicated relationship between Theia and Haden.  Things are more convoluted now than they were before.  Now that Theia has been “infected” with demon blood (from Haden’s mother, no less), Theia, Haden, and everyone they care about are about to enter a world of nightmares that is more horrifying than they ever thought possible…

Theia has just returned from the mysterious nightmare realm of Under…but she’s not returning to the same life she left. Her father is almost unbearably distant, everyone at school looks at her differently (especially the guys), and she’s got the little problem of demon blood running through her veins.  Theia feels more powerful than she ever has, but she doesn’t know how to control her new “abilities.”  A couple of things haven’t changed though.  Her friends are still completely devoted and understanding and are doing their absolute best to help Theia find a way out of her current predicament.  And then there’s Haden…Haden Black, the half-demon who is still the love of Theia’s life.  Sure, his mom, Mara, is totally evil and determined to ruin their human lives and drag them to Under, but Theia never doubts Haden’s love.  Sometimes, he’s the only bright spot in her scary new life.  But evil has a way of destroying every happiness that Theia manages to find, and it’s coming back to claim Theia…whether she likes it or not.

Theia is trying as hard as she can to hold onto her humanity, but it’s getting harder and harder to deny the dark urges that have taken hold of her.  People around her are suffering, and, even though Theia knows it’s not entirely her fault, she feels she must do something–anything–to make things right.  But is she willing to give up the love of her life to make that happen?  Maybe her relationship with Haden was never meant to be, but Theia doesn’t know if she can truly sacrifice her love for Haden to escape the nightmare in which she’s currently imprisoned.  Could she possibly ask him to give up his last shred of humanity so that her life could go back to normal?

Theia must make some tough decisions…and she must make them soon, or everyone she’s ever loved will be in mortal danger.  Will her love for Haden and her friends be strong enough to fight the darkness in Under and even in herself?  Can Theia hold onto her humanity when the urges to embrace the darkness are growing stronger?  Do Theia, Haden, and their friends have any hope of defeating Mara, the demon queen, or will they all be dragged Under…forever?  Find out what one girl is willing to sacrifice–and even accept–in order to save the people who matter the most to her when you read Dreaming Awake, the gripping sequel to Falling Under, by Gwen Hayes.

Like Falling Under, Dreaming Awake, creeped me out just as it drew me in.  Both of these books remind me of Tim Burton films (but without Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter).  Yes, there is a definite nightmarish quality, but there’s also a weird kind of beauty in the world of Under.  I highly recommend this book to teen (and adult) readers who are fans of Tim Burton, The Addams Family, or anything else that depicts love with an edge of darkness.

If you’d like more information about Falling Under, Dreaming Awake, or author Gwen Hayes, visit or follow her on Twitter @gwenhayes.

Take a Bow

If you had asked my eighteen-year-old self what I was going to be fifteen years later, I would have said “a musician.”  I originally went to college as a music major (tuba, specifically).  It was a pretty cut-throat world, even in a small liberal arts college in South Carolina.  After two years of nearly working myself to death, I was completely burnt out.  (At one point, I was practicing eleven different instruments during the same semester.)  I changed my major and began a journey that would lead me to my true calling—school librarianship.  Music, though, has always been and will always be a part of my life.  I still play occasionally, and I’ve even been known to write a piece of music when the spirit moves me.  (I even did a stint as a low brass instructor for a marching band when I still worked at a high school.)  It should come as no surprise, then, that I enjoy books that combine my love of music with my love of young adult fiction.  Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg is a wonderful example of this winning combo. 

Take a Bow follows four high school students as they navigate the tough waters of a performing arts high school.  Emme is a songwriter who seems content to play with her band and write songs for her best friend, Sophie.  Sophie is a diva of the highest order who will stop at nothing to become a star.  (She reminded me a little of Rachel Berry on Glee.)  Carter is a former child star who is struggling with who he was, who everyone thinks he is, and who he wants to become.  Ethan is a gifted musician and songwriter who can’t seem to stop himself from self-destructing…even though he’s damaging the only relationship that really means something to him.

Each of these young people is dealing with the pressure that comes with striving to be the best performer in their fields—auditions, college applications, and nerve-wracking performances.  They’re also discovering just what they want out of life, and what they’ll do to get it.  People will be hurt, friendships will end, delusions will be shattered, dreams will be crushed, and lives will change, but Emme, Sophie, Carter, and Ethan will learn a lot about themselves, music, and life on their roads to success…and success won’t mean the same thing to all of them.  They’ll learn that sometimes the spotlight isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…and that true friends are there whether you’re falling on your face or taking a bow.

I truly enjoyed Take a Bow, especially glimpsing what each character was experiencing.  I totally identified with Emme.  (I was a very shy performer unless I was with a group.)  I loathed Sophie, and I couldn’t wait for Emme to really see the truth about her.  I rooted for both Carter and Ethan to get what they wanted (especially Ethan).  This is a perfect book for music, theater, and even art nerds.  It provides readers with a fairly accurate look at the competitive world of the performing arts.  It’s a little like Glee, but a lot more realistic.  (I love Glee, but I have no illusions that high school students break out into song in the halls or that the same three teachers seem to be involved in absolutely everything.)

If you’d like to learn more about Take a Bow and author Elizabeth Eulberg, visit  You can also like the author’s Facebook page or follow her on Twitter @ElizEulberg.  I’ve read two of her books so far (Take a Bow and Prom & Prejudice), and I look forward to reading many more!

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip

Sometimes I’m surprised by how much I enjoy a book.  That’s the case with Jordan Sonnenblick’s Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip.  (Those that frequent this blog know that this is not the type of book I normally read.)  Having read one other book by Sonnenblick, Notes from the Midnight Driver, I had a feeling I would like Curveball, but I didn’t know that I would spend an entire Monday evening so engrossed that I would forget to watch How I Met Your Mother.  Only when I finished the book at around 9pm did I realize I had missed one of my favorite shows.  (Luckily, I found out it was a rerun, so I didn’t miss much.)  Curveball was a quick read, and it definitely held my interest.  The storyline was kind of predictable, but I really didn’t mind.  The main character, Peter, was relatable and funny, which is kind of rare in a lot of YA fiction.  (I’ll be the first to admit that many of the male characters I read about are morose, aloof, Mr. Darcy types…and they often have supernatural abilities.  I like that, but it’s sometimes nice to change things up a bit.)  I think Curveball will be an easy sell for male readers, from middle through high school, because of the baseball angle, but there’s really something in this book that all readers, male and female, will enjoy…a good story.

Peter Friedman loves baseball.  He’s all set to become a stud pitcher on the high school baseball team.  Unfortunately, his elbow has other ideas.  The summer after eighth grade, Peter has an accident that forces him to throw all of his dreams of being a star athlete out the window.  What now?  He can’t really be a big-shot baseball player if he can’t, you know, throw a baseball.  Peter’s best friend A.J. seems convinced that Peter will be back in pitching shape before the spring, but Peter knows that it’s not going to happen.  Is there any way for sports to play a part in Peter’s high school life?  Possibly.  And it all starts with an unexpected “gift” from Peter’s grandfather, the most important person in Peter’s life.

Peter knows how much photography means to his grandfather, so he’s worried when, all of a sudden, Gramps gives all his stuff away.  Peter thinks it’s a sign that something is wrong with his grandpa.  He’s probably right, but no one—his mom or his grandfather—wants to admit that there might be a problem.  Peter knows he’s too young to have this worry added to all his other issues—his slow-to-heal injury, his delusional best friend, girls, and finding a place for himself in high school—but he just can’t help it.

Peter finds some happiness in two things:  photography and Angelika.  Photography gives him a connection to his grandfather and an identity at school.  Angelika, the cute, funny girl in his photography class, provides Peter with a confidante, a friend, a partner, and, when he needs it most, a swift kick in the pants.  Even though things seem to be unraveling around him, Angelika is his constant, until she confronts Peter about being honest about his future with baseball and his grandfather’s condition.  Peter is losing his grip, and he’s unprepared for the curveballs life has thrown his way.  Can he figure everything out before he loses everything that really matters?  Read Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip to discover how one guy gets his head back in the game…of life.

For more information on Curveball and other books by Jordan Sonnenblick, visit


Read Stork, the first book in this series, before proceeding!  (For those who have read Stork, you might want to skim over it before starting book two, Frost.  I forgot a lot between the two books.)

Most of what I know about Norse mythology comes from old Thor comic books.  (I’m not saying this is a bad thing.)  Whenever I read something that features a fair bit of Norse myth, I have to break out my trusty reference books so that I can really understand what I’m reading.  I had to do this when I read the first book in Wendy Delsol’s Stork trilogy, and I consulted my mythology books a little when reading the second book, Frost.  I also had to look through my school library’s copy of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, the driving force behind this latest installment in the Stork trilogy.  I read The Snow Queen way back in eighth grade, but I had forgotten a lot of it.  The refresher—along with Thor and learning more about Norse mythology—helped me sort of understand what was going on in Frost.  I’ll admit that the main characters’ special abilities still confuse the crap out of me, but I have a better grasp of what’s going on that I would have otherwise.

Katla LeBlanc finally seems to be adjusting to life inMinnesota.  Her dad is moving to town, her mom and future stepdad are planning for a wedding and a baby, her boyfriend—the living embodiment of Jack Frost—is just dreamy, and she’s coming to terms with her role as a Stork, or soul deliverer.  A freak snow storm—brought on by Katla’s desire to have a white Christmas and Jack’s desire to please her—throws everything into chaos.  A little boy loses his life in the storm, and both Katla and Jack are inconsolable.  They know the storm was their fault, but how can they possibly fix things that have gone so wrong?

Katla calls on her Stork abilities to right her wrong, but Jack seems to withdraw from her and become deeply depressed…until a mysterious, beautiful stranger comes to town with what is seemingly the opportunity of a lifetime.

Katla hates Brigid on sight.  Brigid is tall, gorgeous, accomplished, and she catches the eye of (almost) everyone she encounters—male or female.  Brigid claims to be investigating the weather anomalies in the area, and she wants Jack’s help, even going so far as to offer him an internship at her research facility in Greenland.  Jack jumps at the chance, but Katla fears that there’s more to this trip than meets the eye.  She doesn’t know what sort of hold Brigid has on Jack, but Katla knows that she’s on the verge of losing Jack forever.  How right she is.

As Kat deals with her Stork duties (which are becoming more complicated by the minute), a distant boyfriend, performing in the school production of The Snow Queen, her mother being placed on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy, and accompanying her grandfather on a trip to Iceland, she’s beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed.  And when Jack and Brigid go missing in the Arctic, yet another weight is added to Kat’s shoulders.  For she knows she’s the only one who can bring Jack back.  Kat will cross realms and face mysteries she never expected—some helpful, some not-so-much—to save the boy who holds her heart.  Will it be enough?  Or will Jack—and the world as Kat knows it—be lost forever in the cold?

Katla’s world in Frost delves deeply into Icelandic and Norse myth, and it is also a bit of a retelling of The Snow Queen.  I enjoyed how Kat was participating in a school production of The Snow Queen while she was preparing for an eventual battle with the real thing.  (The author presents a great argument for reading a prologue.  If Kat had done that for The Snow Queen, she might have figured out what she was up against a lot sooner.)  Like with Stork, I would have liked a pronunciation guide for the Scandinavian words in this book.  If I’d been reading it aloud, I’m afraid I would have butchered each new word I encountered.

Even though Frost ended on an upswing, things are far from over.  Katla must deal with decisions she made in her quest to save Jack, and those decisions may have consequences that are too horrible to bear.  Look for more of Katla’s story in the third and final installment in the Stork trilogy, Flock, on September 11, 2012.

For more information about author Wendy Delsol and the Stork trilogy, visit  You can also follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.