Book Review, Fiction, Middle Grade, Review, Young Adult

Holiday Reading: Tween and Teen Book Review Round-Up

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A writer is often an avid reader; sometimes I pick books that I want to read, sometimes I pick books that I should read. These are often books in the genre that I am myself working on at the moment. It will come as no surprise then that, as I work on the second volume of the Spirit Within Club and attempt to complete a new YA manuscript, I have been binging on middle grade and young adult fiction. Since the holidays are around the corner—which means lots of time to read by the fireplace with hot chocolate!—I thought to help readers looking for something to cozy up with a round-up of reviews of nine books in these two genres I was able to get my hands on in the first ever holiday reading post ever on this blog.

‘Runway Ready’, by Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk

Holiday Reading: Runway Ready by Sheryl Berk and Carrie BerkAbout the book: 1. Balloons. 2. Spaghetti. 3. Rainbows. If you were to ask Mickey Williams, these would not be her top points of inspiration for designing a party dress. But in fashion, the client is always right…and Mickey’s client happens to be fashion legend Victoria Vanderweil’s five-year-old granddaughter. Even though it’s the toughest assignment Mickey’s gotten during her time at the Fashion Academy of Brooklyn, she can’t pass up the opportunity to impress a top designer like Victoria. But when Cordy turns out to be a tiny terror with non-stop demands, the assignment goes from hard to impossible. Not only that, but Victoria wants Mickey to babysit Cordy during NYC Fashion Week! Can Mickey pull off her project and pass, or will it fall apart at the seams?

Book review: The sequel to the already reviewed debut novel by this mother-daughter writing pair is a well-written, fun and cute story. However, it didn’t please as much as its predecessor did; there was a feeling of almost superficiality throughout. While previously, each interaction allowed for each to become increasingly well developed, everyone seems to have stagnated a little here. But I still have hope for this series, making this a worthwhile read.

Add to reading list? Yes.

‘Model Undercover: London’, Carina Axelsson

Holiday Reading: Model Undercover London by Carina AxelssonAbout the book: Posing as a model gets Axelle the kinds of connections that make her the fashion elite’s go-to detective. Her newest case? The attack on famous fashion photographer Gavin Tempest that’s left him in the hospital. The police may have ruled it a mugging, but Gavin’s sister has special intel for Axelle that points to something more sinister…and when clues start pointing to people in high places, things get dicey for Axelle. Because fashion isn’t the only thing that’s killer in this case…

Book review: We were introduced to Axelle’s world in the first book of the series and learned more about it and about her in the second one. London is the third city we travel to, following what is probably the world’s trendiest sleuth. The mysteries remain original, and not just because of the change in scenery; Axelsson has a broad imagination and makes good use of it. There are of course some things that will no doubt make many a reader scratch their heads, such as the way Axelle’s detective work remains a secret despite the gossip we know permeates the fashion world and the sometimes careless way Axelle discussed her case with and around relative strangers. But overall, the series still work well enough for me to look forward to the next installation.

Add to reading list? Yes.

‘The Lost Girl’, by R. L. Stine

Holiday Reading: The Lost Girl by RL StineAbout the book: Generations of children and teens have grown up on R.L. Stine’s bestselling and hugely popular horror series, Fear Street and Goosebumps. Now, the Fear Street series is back with a chilling new installment, packed with pure nightmare fodder that will scare Stine’s avid fan base of teen readers and adults. New student Lizzy Palmer is the talk of Shadyside High. Michael and his girlfriend Pepper befriend her, but the closer they get to her, the stranger she seems… and the more attractive she is to Michael. He invites her to join him on a snowmobile race that ends in a tragic accident. Soon, Michael’s friends start being murdered, and Pepper becomes convinced that Lizzy is behind the killings. But to her total shock, she and Michael are drawn into a tragic story of an unthinkable betrayal committed over 60 years ago. Frightening and tense in the way that only this master of horror can deliver, The Lost Girl is another terrifying Fear Street novel by the king of juvenile horror.

Book review: As avid Fear Street reader, I was very excited to hear that R.L. Stine was releasing a brand new book. Unfortunately, it was a far cry from what I’m used to. I wasn’t intrigued by the story; I wasn’t attached to the characters; and the usual cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter turned out to be very annoying rather than chilling. The story could have probably benefited from a more exciting plot-line, more character development, and perhaps a twist or two. A definite potential, The Lost Girl as it currently stands is just, well, lost.

Add to reading list? No.

‘How to be Brave’, by E. Katherine Kottaras

Holiday Reading: How to be Brave by E Katherine KottarasAbout the book: Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

Book review: A book that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not, How To Be Brave is one of those books that features a protagonist making less than kosher choices while at the same time teaching readers important life lessons. The concept of friendship is explored mainly through three relationships; the concept of family is touched upon but not delved into; and the concept of a romantic relationship is barely touched upon. And yet one still gets insight into the role of all three in dealing with the traumatic loss of one’s mother.

Add to reading list? Yes.

‘The Sister Pact’, by Stacie Ramey

Holiday Reading: The Sister Pact by Stacie RameyAbout the book: Allie is devastated when her older sister commits suicide- and it’s not just because she misses her. Allie feels betrayed. The two made a pact that they’d always be together, in life and in death, but Leah broke her promise and Allie needs to know why. Her parents hover. Her friends try to support her. And Nick, sweet Nick, keeps calling and flirting. Their sympathy only intensifies her grief. But the more she clings to Leah, the more secrets surface. Allie’s not sure which is more distressing: discovering the truth behind her sister’s death or facing her new reality without her.

Book review: We spend most of our childhood with our siblings; they have such a huge influence on us that the passing of one, especially at their own hand, comes as a rather shocking shock, to say the least. Allie struggles throughout the book to move past her older sister’s death in a way that felt quite realistic; it was dramatic without being overdone, realistic without being stripped of meaning. This book follows Allie’s journey from shock to acceptance and can come in handy to anyone grieving the lost of a close friend.

Add to reading list? Yes.

‘Your Voice Is All I Hear’, by Leah Scheier

Holiday Reading: Your Voice is all I Hear by Leah ScheierAbout the book: “I was the one he trusted. I was the one he loved, the only one who believed him, even when his own mother had locked him up and thrown away the key. And now, I was going to pass down the white tiled hallway, knock on his doctor’s office door, slam his secret notebook on her desk and make her read it, make her understand what he was hiding, make her see what only I had seen.” April won’t let Jonah go without a fight. He’s her boyfriend-her best friend. She’ll do anything to keep him safe. But as Jonah slips into a dark depression, trying to escape the traumatic past that haunts him, April is torn. To protect Jonah, she risks losing everything: family, friends, an opportunity to attend a prestigious music school. How much must she sacrifice? And will her voice be loud enough to drown out the dissenters-and the ones in his head?

Book review: Fiction plays such an important role in helping readers broaden their understanding of reality. One reality that requires a lot of attention is that of mental illness. What does it look like? What effect does it have? How does it affect people? Leah Scheier’s book is a look into one of the many ways mental illness can look like. Harrowing at times, it bodes the question: what would you do if you were in the protagonist’s shoes?

Add to reading list? Yes.

The Heartbreakers, by Ali Novak

Holiday Reading: The Heartbreakers by Ali NovakAbout the book: “When I met Oliver Perry, I had no clue he was the lead singer for The Heartbreakers. And he had no idea that I was the only girl in the world who hated his music.” Stella will do anything for her sick sister, Cara—even stand in line for an autographed Heartbreakers CD…for four hours. She’s totally winning best birthday gift this year. At least she met a cute boy with soft brown hair and gorgeous blue eyes while getting her caffeine fix. Too bad she’ll never see him again. Except, Stella’s life has suddenly turned into a cheesy love song. Because Starbucks Boy is Oliver Perry – lead singer for the Heartbreakers. And even after she calls his music crap, Oliver still gives Stella his phone number. And whispers quotes from her favorite Disney movie in her ear. OMG, what is her life? But how can Stella even think about being with Oliver – dating and laughing and pulling pranks with the band – when her sister could be dying of cancer?

Book review: Sometimes, the brain needs a break, and a break can come in the form of a book that, although well-written and well-developed, is just pure fluff. This is what The Heartbreakers is; a fantasy many a young girl has probably had, of becoming an influential and important part of the close entourage of a world-famous boy band. Well written and well paced, there are some insights to be gleaned, but with some difficulty. So if you are looking for substance, move right along!

Add to reading list? Tentatively.

‘This Where It Ends’, by Marieke Nijkamp

Holiday Reading: This is Where it Ends by Marieke NijkampAbout the book: 10:00 am: The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve. 10:02 am: The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. 10:03 am: The auditorium doors won’t open. 10:05am: Someone starts shooting. This explosive, emotional, page-turning debut about a high school held hostage is told from the perspective of four teens—each with their own reason to fear the boy with the gun.

Book review: While well written and developed—the way the author kept track of a handful of central characters while telling the same story from their various points of views is really well done—this book is, as it currently stands, unnecessary. It is only horrifying in that nothing much comes out of reading it other than a mild form of trauma at the thought of something like this happening. What’s missing? A deeper, more meaningful exploration of how such a tragedy occurred other than the cliché “difficult childhood” and “unloved weirdo” we are given by the author.

Add to reading list? No.

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