Atlantia

Atlantia, a stand-alone novel by Matched author Ally Condie, had been sitting on my bookshelf for while. A few weeks ago, I decided to finally read it. It was not quite what I was expecting. I wanted to like it as much as I did the Matched series, but something held me back…and I’m not even sure what it was. For whatever reason, I just didn’t connect to this book. Maybe I’ll be able to work that out throughout the course of this post.

Rio longs to be Above. She’s lived Below, in her underwater home of Atlantia, for her entire life, but she’s never really felt like she belongs here. Even though she’s promised her sister, Bay, that she’ll stay with her Below, a part of her longs for the sand, sun, and sky Above.

It’s understandable, then, that Rio feels a sense of betrayal when her sister makes the stunning decision to go Above herself. Left Below alone, Rio is adrift, torn from the last person who truly knew her and her secrets. You see, Rio is a siren–one of the last of these powerful beings–and she’s always hidden her true voice from those around her. Could this secret have something to do with her sister’s abrupt departure? And could it be the key to Rio finding her way Above?

Eventually, Rio comes to realize that she’s not as alone as she thought. Her aunt, also a siren, is determined to help Rio find her voice and get in touch with her true power. Why though? Can this woman, who was never before part of Rio’s life, be trusted? Does Rio even have any choice in the matter if she wants to be reunited with her sister? What exactly is her aunt’s agenda?

As Rio comes to terms with her own power and her family’s actions, she uncovers some terrible truths about Atlantia itself. It seems that terrible forces are at work that will ensure the destruction of not only Atlantia but every siren who still exists. It also appears that Rio may be the only hope to stop these horrible events from occurring.

What can Rio do to turn the tide? How can she, an untried siren, possibly thwart the powers that would seek to destroy her? Who can she rely on to save herself and the only home she’s ever known?


I would categorize Atlantia as science fiction…even though it’s billed as fantasy. It seems obvious to me that the entire concept of this underwater city comes about because of the damage done to the environment Above. The societies in this book found a way to build a fully-enclosed, underwater city where people could live free of pollution. Once there, sirens–and others with special abilities–evolved due to their new surroundings. Industry revolved around keeping the city intact, and there was a certain amount of interdependence between Above and Below. Even religions changed (or were formed) to explain these new dynamics. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on all of this, I find it fascinating, and it helps me to have a more positive outlook on this book as a whole. (I’m still not overly fond of Rio or the somewhat forced romance in the book, but that’s probably my issue.)

Atlantia, in my opinion, is a good fit for libraries that serve middle grade and teen readers. There are some interesting family dynamics, a decent mystery, supernatural elements, and a bit of romance…something for everyone, I guess. It may not be my absolute favorite book, but it makes me think, and that’s all I can really ask for.

To learn more about Atlantia and Ally Condie, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The Darkest Corners

I had planned to take a break from blogging during my vacation. Well, that’s just not working out for me. Earlier today, I finished reading The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, and I have to get my thoughts down while they’re still fresh.

So…The Darkest Corners. How can I best describe this book? It’s a murder mystery, but there’s so much more to it. Tessa, our protagonist, is returning to Fayette, Pennsylvania, after a ten-year absence, and her reasons for returning are just as complicated as those that make her stick around.

Tessa is back in Fayette to say goodbye to her dying father. While she doesn’t get the chance for that last meeting, she does find herself once again pulled into the case that changed her life forever…and will continue to do so.

Ten years ago, a serial killer known as the Ohio River Monster was on the loose in Fayette. Tessa and her friend Callie testified at the trial of a man thought to be the killer, but new evidence may set this man free. What if they were wrong? What if an innocent man is in prison and the real killer is still out there?

When another girl is killed in the same manner as the Monster’s victims, Tessa is more certain than ever that she and Callie got it wrong. But how can they prove it? Will they be able to bring the real killer(s) to justice when the police couldn’t? And what will Tessa uncover about herself and her own family throughout the course of her investigation?

Secrets will be revealed, and the truth will soon come to light. How will this change Tessa and everything she believes about herself? Read The Darkest Corners to find out.


While I thought this book was a little slow to start, I absolutely devoured the last two-thirds of it. I couldn’t read fast enough, and I was thrown by the revelations at the end of the book. Totally didn’t see any of that coming. Kudos to author Kara Thomas for keeping me guessing and delivering a whopper of a surprise at the end.

If you’re considering adding The Darkest Corners to your library, I advise caution with younger readers. In my opinion, this is a YA book. It addresses things like murder, drug use, drinking, and teen prostitution. The language used reflects the seriousness and grittiness of these situations. Keep that in mind.

To learn more about The Darkest Corners and other books by Kara Thomas, visit the author’s website. Enjoy!

The Seventh Wish

What do you get when you combine a wish-giving fish, Irish dancing, and drug addiction? You get The Seventh Wish, Kate Messner’s newest book. This book is weird, moving, and magical. It will be released this Tuesday, and it is at once fun and serious. Yes, there is a fantastical element to it, and it’s often entertaining to see how that plays out, but the book also deals with some difficult situations. Those situations are handled in a very real, accessible way, and it’s interesting to see how serious issues may be viewed through a child’s eyes.

Charlie doesn’t expect much from her ice fishing adventures with her friend and his grandmother. But when she comes across a fish that agrees to grant a wish in exchange for its freedom, Charlie reevaluates things. Maybe this fish can help Charlie, her friends, and her family get everything they’ve been hoping for.

As one could imagine, a girl isn’t going to let a wish-granting fish go to waste, so she puts it to good use. Charlie wishes for her mom to get a new job, for one friend to pass her English exam, for another to make the basketball team, and for a boy she likes to fall in love with her. Unfortunately, Charlie learns rather quickly that one must be extremely specific when speaking to a wish fish. Her wishes, however well-intended, are not turning out as she would have hoped.

Even with all of this wishing and fishing going on, Charlie still has to find time to work on her science project and practice her Irish dancing. A big dance competition is coming up, and she could have the opportunity to move up into a higher class. It’s a big deal, and Charlie has been psyching herself up for a while. She won’t let anything get in her way.

Sadly, something does happen that derails Charlie’s plans as well as everything she ever believed about her big sister. When it’s revealed that her sister, who’s been away at college, is having problems with heroin addiction, Charlie’s family–her whole world, really–changes. Everyone drops everything to help Charlie’s sister, and, while Charlie understands why, she’s also angry that she’s having to give up so much. Her dance competition, time with friends to work on their science project, and nearly everything else. Isn’t she important, too?

Charlie wonders if her wish fish could somehow help to make her sister and this horrible situation better. If she’s very careful with her words, maybe it could. Maybe her sister could come home and be the girl that Charlie always looked up to. It couldn’t hurt, right?

For a while, everything is going okay, but then something happens that shakes Charlie’s world once again, and Charlie knows that her wish fish can’t help with this one. Some things are just to big too let a little fish handle.


This book brings to mind the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” Charlie’s wishes definitely get away from her, and she learns quickly that words have power. Some of the situations she found herself in were kind of funny. Others, as you’ve no doubt gathered, were heart-breaking.

Some adults may hesitate to put this book in elementary or middle school libraries because it deals with the topic of heroin addiction. Nothing is sugar-coated here, but I do think the topic is handled with care and empathy. Like it or not, some of our younger students deal with addiction as a daily part of their lives, and they need stories that show them that they’re not alone. I think The Seventh Wish is a book that speaks to students who’ve had siblings, parents, or friends suffering from addiction. I also think it might enlighten those who haven’t dealt with such a serious issue.

Will I be placing this book in my elementary school library? Yes, I will.

If you’d like to learn more about The Seventh Wish so that you can decide if it has a place in your school, classroom, public, or personal library, visit author Kate Messner’s website.

Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful book a little early.

P.S. I Still Love You

Warning! Turn back now if you haven’t read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. P.S. I Still Love You is not a stand-alone novel. You need to read the first book to fully appreciate the second.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s turn our attention to P.S. I Still Love You by the fabulous Jenny Han. This book as been on my TBR list since I finished the first book, and I finally got the chance to read it this weekend. (Thank you, Overdrive!) Like the first book, it is a quick, light read, and it thoroughly grabs the reader’s attention, especially if you love the first book. What’s more, the main character, Lara Jean, is Asian American, representation that is sorely lacking in a lot of contemporary YA romance. And this book, like its predecessor, is definitely a romance at its core.

Lara Jean Song Covey desperately hopes she hasn’t ruined things with Peter. Sure, at first they were just pretending to be into each other, but it soon became real for both of them. But now Lara Jean doesn’t know what to do. Maybe a letter, like the one that brought them together in the first place, will help the situation. It can’t hurt, right?

As it turns out, Peter is just as eager to start a real relationship as Lara Jean is. The two reunite, but their reunion isn’t as sweet as one would hope. Someone secretly videos what should have been a private moment between Lara Jean and Peter and plasters it all over the Internet. It goes viral. It becomes a meme.

Lara Jean is mortified. Peter is vowing to stop whoever posted the video, but the damage has been done…and Lara Jean is pretty sure she knows who’s responsible. Unfortunately, Peter has blinders on when it comes to the culprit (the vile Genevieve), and this incident is driving a wedge between him and Lara Jean.

Peter and Lara Jean are drifting apart–thanks largely to the machinations of Genevieve, Peter’s ex–but there’s another guy just waiting in the wings for Lara Jean’s attention…another guy who received one of her infamous love letters way back when.

John Ambrose McClaren seems to be the perfect guy. He’s smart, tall, respectful, handsome, and he’s interested in a lot of the same things as Lara Jean. Part of her really likes him and wonders what could come of a relationship…but another part of her still has feelings for Peter. What’s a girl to do when she’s torn between two guys?

Well, as is often the case, Lara Jean follows her heart. Who will it lead her to? Find out for yourself when you read P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han!


So…I don’t know that I liked this sequel as much as the first book, but I still found it to be a very entertaining read. Also, as I think I mentioned in my post on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I related a bit to the character of Lara Jean. No, I’m not Korean, or girly, or a good cook, or at all interested in romance, but I’ve always been a “good girl.” Yes, I argue a bit with my parents, but we’ve always had a very good relationship, and, even as a teenager, I respected them and their rules. (Seriously. I broke curfew exactly one time, and I felt worse about it than they did. I doubt they even remember it.) It’s nice to see that reflected in modern YA literature. More often than not, teens are depicted as rebellious–even disdainful–of their parents (when the parents are in the picture at all), so I really appreciate it when I see something that resembles more of my own experiences.

As far as who Lara Jean should end up with in this book, I have a feeling that will be up for debate with a lot of readers. Will you be Team Peter or Team John Ambrose McClaren? (Yes, it is necessary to say his full name.) I won’t come right out and tell you who Lara Jean ends up with, but I will say that I am most definitely Team John Ambrose McClaren. In my most humble opinion, he’s a great match for Lara Jean. I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way.

Even though P.S. I Still Love You is a fairly light read, it does deal with issues like cyberbullying and deciding when it’s the right time to enter into a sexual relationship. I think some middle school students may be able to handle the situations as presented in the book, but others won’t. Know your readers before recommending this book or its predecessor to middle grade audiences.

If you’d like to learn more about P.S. I Still Love You or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, take a look at the author’s website. You can also connect with Jenny Han through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Wild Swans

Thanks to NetGalley, I was fortunate enough to read an early copy of Wild Swans, the latest novel from Jessica Spotswood. I finished the book late last night, and, while I’m paying for it today (seriously, there is not enough coffee to get me going), the time I spent reading this riveting book was well worth it. It is a great example of contemporary YA fiction, and I think many libraries that serve teen readers will be adding it to their shelves.

Ivy Milbourn knows a little something about pressure. Her grandfather drives her to be the best (at nearly everything) and live up to the Milbourn family legacy. But what legacy is that? Using her talent to achieve success? Dying too young? Or abandoning her family?

A few Milbourn women took care of those first two things, and Ivy’s own mother handled the last. Ivy wants to be successful–without being driven crazy–but she also wants to prove that she’s nothing like her mother, a woman she hasn’t seen since she was two years old. Ivy is looking for a way to stand out, but she’s constantly tormented by her own feelings of mediocrity.

Well, this summer, which Ivy thought was going to be relatively pressure-free, may just be the one that breaks her and forces her to really examine what it means to be a Milbourn woman. Ivy’s mother, Erica, has come back home…with Ivy’s two little sisters.

Ivy doesn’t quite know how to handle her mom’s sudden reappearance, especially when faced with Erica’s blatant animosity. Why does her mom hate her so much? What could a two-year-old have possibly done to earn so much loathing, and why does this virtual stranger seem to delight in making Ivy miserable now? What’s more…why does Erica insist that Ivy’s sisters never know of their true relationship?

As if this huge mess with her mom and sisters is not enough, Ivy is also dealing with a changing dynamic between her and her best friend, a potential love interest (who is also one of her grandfather’s students), and the continuing struggle to both live up to and break free of her grandfather’s expectations and the Milbourn family legacy.

Will Ivy be able to handle all of the burdens on her young shoulders? Will she crack under the pressure or find some way to rise above it all while remaining true to herself?

Discover the answers to these questions and many more when you read Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood.


Any reader who’s ever dealt with family pressure will find something to relate to in Ivy. (Doesn’t narrow the audience down much, does it?) Ivy didn’t always handle things in the best way, but she did experience quite a bit of personal growth throughout the course of the book. She learned to speak up for herself and let others know how they made her feel. It wasn’t easy, but Ivy came to realize that it was necessary. That’s a lesson that many adults–myself included–have yet to learn.

As much as I liked this book and most of the main and supporting characters, I have to say that I loathed Erica. (Kudos to the author for making me despise someone so much.) This woman’s behavior was absolutely atrocious for the vast majority of the book. Erica is definitely a character that readers will love to hate, and they’ll cheer when Ivy finally confronts her. Even though there is a hint of redemption for this troubled woman by the end of the book, she still comes off as the villain of the piece…as she should.

Wild Swans, which will be released on May 3rd, is a good fit for teen readers. I wouldn’t recommend it for middle grade readers, simply because there is some frank talk of sexual situations, a lot of underage alcohol use, and a fair amount of swearing. (Having worked in a middle school, I’m not stupid enough to think that some middle school students don’t have experience with that stuff, but I am certain that they’re not mature enough to deal with a lot of it.) This is a book for high school libraries and YA collections.

If you’d like more information on Wild Swans and other books by Jessica Spotswood, check out the author’s website as well as her Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads pages.

Vanishing Girls

I finished reading Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver about fifteen minutes ago, and I’m still processing what happened, so bear with me. I may end up working out my feelings on this book throughout the course of this post. (That happens quite frequently, to be honest.)

In Vanishing Girls, we meet sisters Nick and Dara. Their story, told in Before and After increments, details a rather tumultuous relationship. The sisters were once very close, but jealousy, fighting, relationships, self-destructive behaviors–and, eventually, a horrible accident–tear the girls apart.

Nothing is the same after the car accident that built an impenetrable wall between the sisters. Nick, who is moving back in with her mother for the summer, wants to repair her relationship with Dara, but her sister seems to excel in the art of avoidance. Their paths never cross, but Nick continues to look for a way back to her sister.

While Nick is searching for a way to reconnect with Dara, there’s another search underway in their town. Madeline Snow, a nine-year-old girl, has gone missing. Everyone is on alert, and as the hours and days pass, the story continues to grip the community. Where is this young girl? What happened to her? How could she have vanished without a trace? Surely someone knows something, but the girl is nowhere to be found.

After Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick is convinced that her disappearance is somehow linked to Madeline Snow’s. She goes on a hunt for clues into Dara’s life, and she’s shocked by what she finds. Apparently, Dara’s been involved in much more than the occasional experiments with drugs and alcohol. She gotten mixed up in a horrible situation, something with the power to ruin her entire life.

What drove Dara to something like this? Could Nick have done something to stop it? What does Dara have to do with Madeline Snow’s disappearance, and can Nick uncover the whole truth–including what really happened on the night of that fateful car accident–before she loses everything?

_______________

Okay…after writing all of that, I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. It was good (as are Lauren Oliver’s other books), and it definitely kept me eager to turn each page, but I guess I simply wasn’t expecting the twist at the end. No, I’m not going to reveal anything major, but I will say that I now want to read the entire book again so that I can look for clues that I missed the first go-round.

Vanishing Girls isn’t a light and fluffy read that you can simply finish and forget. This book is sure to keep readers thinking long after the last page, and I think a lot of interesting discussions could result. (This would be a good pick for a YA book club.)

I do think this book is more suited to an older teen audience, mainly because of the frank depictions of alcohol and drug use and some sexual situations. As always, read the book yourself before adding it to any classroom or library collections. What works in one collection may not be a good fit for another.

If Vanishing Girls sounds like it might be your cup of tea, you can learn more about it on Lauren Oliver’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and YouTube. Enjoy!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has been on my radar for a few months, and I finally made time to read it this week. (I actually devoured it in less than 24 hours.) This wonderful book by Jenny Han introduces readers to Lara Jean Song Covey, a somewhat fanciful sixteen-year-old girl who gets over her crushes by writing them letters. She writes the letters and then moves on with her life. But when the letters actually get sent, Lara Jean’s life gets kind of complicated…

Lara Jean is a devoted sister, a loyal friend, and a reliable daughter. She’s not much of a rule-breaker, she doesn’t go to many parties, and she’s kind of invisible at school…and she mostly likes it that way.

Lara Jean does have some secrets, though–secrets those closest to her know nothing about. Lara Jean has had five crushes in her life. In order to move past these crushes, she writes each boy a letter, addresses it, and places it in an old hat box under her bed. No one knows about these letters except Lara Jean, and she has no intention of every mailing the letters…especially since one of them is written to her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh.

One day, Lara Jean realizes that the hat box under her bed is missing, and the letters she’s written to her crushes have actually been mailed out. When she understands what’s happened, Lara Jean panics and worries about what all of this could mean for her. A couple of her former crushes are no longer around, so she’s not terribly concerned about them…but some of them confront her about what she wrote, and that’s where things get a little messy.

In order to save face around Josh, Lara Jean devises a plan to make him think that she’s totally over whatever feelings she may have once had for him. She conspires with Peter, also one of her former crushes, to make everyone think that they’re now together. It’s a win-win situation, really. Lara Jean can avoid a big confrontation with Josh, and Peter can make his ex-girlfriend jealous. What neither Lara Jean nor Peter count on, however, is how this fake relationship will affect both themselves and those around them.

Lara Jean is growing closer to Peter, and she’s beginning to wonder if maybe he has some feelings for her. What started as a fake relationship may quickly be evolving into something real. Does Peter actually care about her, or is he still just using her to make his ex jealous? Does Peter, who knows the whole story of the letters, believe she still has feelings for Josh? How does Margot, Lara Jean’s beloved older sister and Josh’s ex-girlfriend, figure into this mix?

Lara Jean will soon have to face the realities of all of her relationships–those with Peter, Josh, and her sisters. What will she do once everyone knows the truth? We’ll just have to see…

_______________

I found To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to be a fast, fun read that definitely gripped me and wouldn’t let go. Even though I thought Lara Jean’s voice was a tad grating at times, I felt that her character was realistic. It’s a nice change from all of the rule-breaking party girls in a lot of contemporary YA. Teens who respect their parents, like to stay in at night, and follow rules need to see themselves in fictional characters, too, and I was happy to see such a character in this story…even though she did play fast and loose with the truth from time to time. (Even us good girls can relate to that, though.)

I do have to admit that the end of this book nearly sent me into a panic. I kept glancing at the page count at the bottom of my ereader and wondering how in the world I was going to get a happy ending with so few pages remaining. And, while the ending was somewhat satisfying, it did leave things kind of open…which makes sense when one realizes there’s already a sequel.

The next book featuring Lara Jean and company, P.S. I Still Love You, is already out, and it is near the top of my lengthy TBR list. I can hardly wait to see what happens with Lara Jean and Peter.

For those wondering if To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before would be a good fit for middle school library collections, I’d have to say that it may be okay for upper middle school. There is some language, alcohol use, and talk of sexual situations, but there is nothing terribly graphic. In truth, Lara Jean could actually serve as something of a role model for some readers. She sees a lot of this stuff going on around her, and while she does feel some pressure to fit in, she remains true to herself and her values. Do with that what you will.

If you think To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before sounds like the book for you, I encourage you to learn more about in on Goodreads or the author’s website. You can also connect with Jenny Han through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Enjoy!