Readers' Favorite

July 30, 2016

July's Best of YA

Students will be heading back to classes soon and that means book reports! Help your student start off the school on the right foot by picking up these popular young adult books. Do you agree with this list or do you think a great young adult book was left off?

cover of P.S. I Like You
What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?

While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she's flustered -- and kind of feels like she's falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer -- but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?

From beloved author Kasie West (The Distance Between Us) comes an utterly charming story about mixed messages, missed connections, and the magic of good old-fashioned secret admirer notes.

Buy P.S. I Like You at Amazon

cover of Learning to Swear in America
Brimming with humor and one-of-a-kind characters, this end-of-the world novel will grab hold of Andrew Smith and Rainbow Rowell fans.

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been called to NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. He knows how to stop the asteroid: his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize--if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But Yuri's 17, and having a hard time making older, stodgy physicists listen to him. Then he meets Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and save a life worth living.

Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with questions of the universe.

Buy Learning to Swear in America at Amazon

cover of How to Hang a Witch
It's the Salem Witch Hunt meets Mean Girls in this deliciously suspenseful novel by an author who is a descendant of one the real trial's most infamous accusers.

Samantha Mather has just moved to Salem, Massachusetts from New York City in the wake of her father's mysterious illness. But Mathers have lived in Salem for centuries and Sam is the ancestor of Cotton Mather—one of the architects of the Salem Witch Trials. Her name precedes her, and comes with too many stigmas. Before long, Sam finds herself at odds with The Descendants, a powerful group of girls who also have ties to the trials; only their ancestors were on the other end of the noose.
Before long, Sam realizes she is at the center of a centuries old curse that is tying her fate, as well as her father's, to her new enemies. Can she overcome her family's past and break the cycle of unexplained deaths or will she discover just how easy it can be to hang a witch?

Buy How to Hang a Witch at Amazon

cover of The Memory Book
They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I'll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I'm writing to remember.

Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie's notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart--a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

Buy The Memory Book at Amazon

cover of The Killer in Me
Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She’s intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims’ bodies in an abandoned mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert.

Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf—the deserts of New Mexico.

But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she’s had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief?

Buy The Killer in Me at Amazon

cover of Gemini
In a powerful and daring debut novel, Sonya Mukherjee shares the story of sisters Clara and Hailey, conjoined twins who are learning what it means to be truly extraordinary.

Seventeen-year-old conjoined twins Clara and Hailey have lived in the same small town their entire lives—no one stares at them anymore. But there are cracks in their quiet existence, and they’re slowly becoming more apparent. Clara and Hailey are at a crossroads. Clara wants to stay close to home, avoid all attention, and study the night sky. Hailey wants to travel the world, learn from great artists, and dance with mysterious boys. As high school graduation approaches, each twin must untangle her dreams from her sister’s, and figure out what it means to be her own person.

Told in alternating perspectives, this unconventional coming-of-age tale shows how dreams can break your heart—but the love between sisters can mend it.

Buy Gemini at Amazon

What young adult novel have you read this month that you think should have made this list?

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July 29, 2016

2 Novels Focused on Aging Parents and the Kids Who Take Care of Them

by Susan Roberts

The sandwich generation is the generation of middle-aged individuals who are pressured to support both aging parents and growing children.  As part of this generation myself, I know how difficult it is to take care of parents and children (or grandchildren) and to find time to take care of yourself.  I have recently read two fiction books that discuss this issue.

cover of I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around
I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around by Ann Wertz Garvin

The title of this new book by Ann Garvin, is the first indication that this is going to be a book worth reading and I can tell you right now that is absolutely correct! I loved this book. The characters are so wonderful and real - they make mistakes and agonize over their decisions and power on with their lives. Because you get so involved with the characters, this is a difficult book to put down once you've started it because you want to see what happens with everyone and if their issues will be resolved.

Tig Monahan's life is a mess. She is taking care of her Mom who has Alzheimers and has just moved into a nursing home, her boyfriend has just broken up with her and she has lost her job as a psychologist after telling a patient what she really thinks of him. To top it off, her sister who she hasn't heard from in two years and who has been no help with their mother, shows up at her door and is 9 months pregnant. Tig tries to do what she has always done - she takes care of everyone else and forgets to take care of herself. Tig tries to learn to take care of her own needs and even though its a real struggle at time, there are also times that the reader can laugh out loud.

I especially enjoyed this novel because I identify with it - I am part of the generation that is caught between taking care of aging parents, family members and children and who often forget that they need taken care of too. Tig is a fantastic real character and someone who I won't soon forget.

Buy I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around at Amazon

cover of Things Unsaid
Things Unsaid by Diana Y. Paul

The baby boomers in America today are faced with the same dilemma as the characters in this book - how do they juggle taking care of their aging parents and their families and children at the same time and not go totally crazy themselves. Adding to the problem in this novel is that these parents have always treated their children terribly but the adult children still feel guilt over how to care for their parents.

Robert and Aida have three children - Jules, their oldest daughter who feels the most responsible for her parents; Andrew, the only son who hasn't visited in over five year and Joanne, the spoiled youngest daughter. Aida is probably one of the most narcissistic characters that I've read in a long time and if the reader thinks this is just a trait that develops as she grows older, there are lots of flashbacks to earlier times that show that she has always been this way. Robert is weak and didn't do much to take care of his family except provide his income. Their bills are mounting in their retirement home and they expect Jules to bail them out. Problem is that Jules has a husband and daughter at home and is maxing out their future to take care of her parents.

This is an extremely well written thought provoking book. I enjoyed the way the author opened up the characters little by little throughout the story. There were several characters that I didn't like at all but they were an integral part of the story that needed to be told. Overall, it left a great question that the reader needs to answer for themselves - it is more important to take care of our aging parents or the family that we create when we start our own lives?

Buy Things Unsaid at Amazon

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July 28, 2016

Review: Caged Lightning by Brent Rock Russell

by Donna Huber

cover of Caged Lightning
Last week I took a Sleep & Read vacation. Caged Lightning by Brent Rock Russell was one of the books on my list to read.

I really liked the premise: Wyatt Stryker, E.R. doctor and ex-Navy SEAL, finds himself facing one of the deadliest drug cartels when his son has been taken hostage.

And I thought it started well.
"I was about to take a bullet to the cranium. Not for a particularly noble reason, like foiling a terrorist attack or hurling my body in front of the President. Nothing remotely worth the risk of a skull peephole."

Unfortunately, the execution of the story didn't work for me in this plot driven novel.

One of the first things I noticed was that the writing wasn't as sleek as I am used to in thrillers. I thought the reading level was a little low compared to the adult books I typically read. There is nothing wrong with that in itself as it might appeal to people that do not read very much.

Some of the technique is what really bugged me. I thought it was pretty much industry standard these days that if you were going to use dialogue tags (i.e. he said) that they went at the end of the dialogue. However, in Caged Lighning they were at the beginning of the dialogue. It was jarring.

A side note: I read an ARC, which means it has not completely finished all phases of editing. Typically proof reading hasn't been completed. Maybe dialogue tags were fixed prior to full publishing.

I also thought there was unneccessary explanations or details at times, which had it not been included the story would have been tighter. It really effected the momentim of the story for me.

For example there was a section explaining the difference between covert and clandestine operations.
"There's a difference between covert and clandestine. Clandestine missions are generally conducted with diplomatic approval, or at least not outright disapproval. But if something gets in the press, the nation claims to be transgressed and angry at the U.S. True covert missions are conducted in sovereign nations without the knowledge of their government; the U.S. government denies any association. Operators use equipment non-attributable to the U.S."

A couple of pages later Wyatt is remembering a covert mission he was on as a Navy SEAL. Instead of stopping the story (at least for me) to define the difference between the two types of mission, it could have been inserted seamlessly into the memory that the mission was covert. Especially since twice during the recall it is mentioned that the U.S. would deny involvement. I never saw the point of spelling out the difference or even really bringing up the difference. It had no real bearing on what was happening in the story to have an understanding beyond what a covert mission is.

The action scenes were well written. They were really the strength of the book. I just wish the rest of the story had been as well done.

I also had problems with the characters.

The 911 operator and detective were written almost as Barney Fife characters. Perhaps if the story was set in middle of nowhere hickville it would have been believable, but they are in San Diego and their attitudes were unprofessional. Who doesn't take a possible child abduction seriously? I know there are bad apples, but these two characters felt too exaggerated.

I understand the main character is under a lot of stress, but his personality seemed inconsistent. There was a lot of emphasis put on his traing as a Navy SEAL and how they are trained to be calm under pressure. Yet, soon after a reminder of this fact, we would read that Wyatt was panicking. Sometimes to the extent that he could not come up with plan or execute the plan he did come up with.

Cage Lightning is clearly a plot driven novel, so I understood that character development was lacking. If you have been reading my review for very long, you know I much more prefer a character driven novel. That may explain why I wasn't as entralled with this action-packed book. I also wonder if it wasn't written more with a male audience in mind. If so, that's great as typically men don't read as much as women (as there is no shortage of reading material written for a female audience), but I wouldn't have been the right audience for this book.

Either way, I felt little thrill for this thriller. But as they say different strokes for different folks, so check out the sample chapters:

Buy Caged Lighning at Amazon

Donna Huber, founder & publisher. Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances.

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (464 pages)
published: July 2016 by Elevate Fiction
ISBN13: 9781943425372
genres: crime, action, thriller
source: publisher

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A free book was provided by the publisher for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 27, 2016

Think You Know Alexander Hamilton? Read This Before You Answer.

by Kathleen Barker

When looking for a kick-back summer read, most of us resist an 800+ page boulder of non-fiction.  Yet since I am unwilling to plunk down an ultra-serious chunk of change for an elusive ticket to Broadway's smash hit, "Hamilton", I decided to take the plunge into Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow's best-selling biography of our country's most misunderstood and underrated Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. 

Most of us know little about Hamilton other than that his face is featured on ten dollar bills and that he was shot by Aaron Burr.  He was much more.  Brilliant, driven, and charismatic, he was likely the most influential figure to never serve as the President of our country.  Unlike nearly all other Founding Fathers, Hamilton burst onto the American scene from a most unfortunate childhood.  An illegitimate orphan born on a Caribbean Island, he read voraciously and wrote so well that he was employed at a very young age as a clerk by a trading company.  After the 1722 hurricane in St. Croix the then-fifteen year old Hamilton penned a summary of the ravaging storm which impressed the editor of the Royal Danish American Gazette.  A pastor took up a collection to fund his education in America where he entered King's College (now Columbia University).  The immensely-talented young man fought for independence from Britain and became General George Washington's chief aide.  He founded our nation's financial system, the United States Coast Guard, the Federalist Party, the New York Post newspaper, and more.

"The magnitude of Hamilton's feats as treasury secretary has overshadowed many other facets of his life: clerk, college student, youthful poet, essayist, artillery captain, wartime adjutant to Washington, battlefield hero, congressman, abolitionist, Bank of New York founder, state assemblyman, member of the Constitutional Convention and New York Ratifying Convention, orator, lawyer, polemicist, educator, patron saint of the New-York Evening Post, foreign-policy theorist, and major general in the army," writes Chernow.

In the most comprehensive telling of Alexander Hamilton's life, Chernow perused almost 22,000 pages of letters, manuscripts, and articles to reveal a man with unparalleled intellect  and ambition.  The comprehensive yet never-dull book inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to create the award-winning Broadway musical that so many have seen and still wait to see.  You won't be disappointed by either.

Buy Alexander Hamilton at Amazon

Kathleen Barker, features writer. Kathleen was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. A graduate of Blessed Sacrament, the Institute of Notre Dame and Towson University, she spent twenty years as the much-traveled wife of a Navy pilot and has three children. While working for a Fortune 500 insurance company in New Orleans, she wrote feature and human interest articles for their magazine and received the Field Reporter of the Year award. After Hurricane Katrina, she returned to her beloved state of Maryland where she started work on "The Charm City Chronicles". All four volumes, "Ednor Scardens", "The Body War", "The Hurting Year", and "On Gabriel's Wings" are available in Amazon's Kindle store.

July 26, 2016

Review: Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach

by Susan Roberts

cover Age of Consent
I'll start out by saying that Age if Consent is a difficult book to read but that as a mother or a daughter or a woman, it's a book that you should definitely read. It's a novel about abuse of a child but told in a way that I've never read before and in a way that's really made me think about how evil some people can be to other people.

First the triangle - June is a young widow - not real attractive but she would love to find someone to love. Bobbie is her 13 year old daughter - she is very cute and extremely smart and plans to go to college someday. She loves her mother deeply and tries to take care of her. Craig Kirtz is a local disc jockey who becomes a friend to the small family. June has a major crush on him but it was Bobbie that he was interested in and Bobbie that he seduced at the young age of 14. June has no idea that there is an on going relationship between Craig and Bobbie until years later when Bobbie brings charges against Craig for sexual abuse.

The novel alternates between the past and the present. The reader learns how Bobbie felt during her teenage years and how it affected her as an adult and why she decided to come back to her home town and face Craig and her mother again. By facing her past, she had to re-live it all again.

This is a fantastic novel about a difficult subject. It was so well done that I had trouble putting it down once I started and I was unable to start a new book once I finished it because the character of Bobbie kept resonating in my mind.

Buy Age of Consent at Amazon

Listen to an excerpt from the audio book:

Susan Roberts, reviewer. Susan grew up in the Detroit area but after deciding that city life wasn't for her she moved to North Carolina after college. She and her husband have several acres of land and they enjoy gardening and canning vegetables in the summer. They travel extensively. Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook or Twitter.

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (336 pages)
published: July 2016 by Nan A. Talese
ISBN13: 9780385540872
genres: women's fiction, suspense
source: Goodreads 

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: A free book was provided by Goodreads for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 25, 2016

#BigBookGiveaway - Rook by @JCAndrijeski #MondayBlogs

cover of Rook
There's only a week left to enter the Big Book Giveaway where 2 winners will win 10 books each. You do need a US address to enter. With the variety of genres represented, there is just about something for everyong in this giveaway. There is even a few young adult books in the mix. Today I am featuring cyberpunk novel Rook (Allie's War #1) by 5 time USA Today best selling author JC Andrijeski.

Like most humans, Allie's spent her life distancing herself from Seers, a race of human-like beings discovered on Earth in the early 1900s. That changes after catching her boyfriend in the arms of a hot band groupie, and Allie goes from San Francisco artist slacker to the girl wearing the GPS anklet in about sixteen seconds. Being stuck with community service is the least of her problems, though, compared to the shock of discovering who--and what--she really is.

Yanked out of her life by the mysterious Revik, who drives her crazy in all the best and worst ways, Allie finds out that her blood may not be as indisputably human as she always thought. Through Revik she learns the truth: that Seers are nothing like she thought, that the world is nothing like it appears to be... and that she has far more in common with Seers than she ever wanted to believe.

Now on the run from a group of anti-human,terrorist Seers called Rooks and her own human government, Allie must learn to navigate a secret shadow world behind her own, a world filled with superhuman Seers with their own battles raging...and their own agendas around the fate of humanity. When Allie's family and friends get dragged into that war, things suddenly get a lot more personal, and Allie learns she may be the only one who can stop it.

My Thoughts:
I read Rook back in 2014 along with several more in the series. I liked the plot and the characters a lot. I had some trouble with understanding the world, which is usually why I shy away from fantasy. When I ignored some of the world building aspects I loved the book. This was my first experience with the genre cyberpunk. It's probably not one of my more favorite genres, but Andrijeski writes a really great story.

Remember you can pick up the novella New York:Early Years (Allie's War #0.1) for free at Amazon and B&N.

Start Reading:

Enter the Giveaway:

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July 24, 2016

Review: Death By Diploma by Kelley Kaye

by Elisa Hordon

cover of Death by Diploma
As Emma Lovett discovers the perils of teaching high school in the fun cozy mystery Death by Diploma, she and best friend Leslie learn more than they ever wanted to know about the reasons people kill.

  • Kelley Kaye was a new to me author and I loved Death By Diploma.
  • This was a giggling good time.
  • Right from the start I loved Emma, she is such a strong character.
  • A witty, well written who done it.
  • A quirky cast of characters that had me from the first page.
  • A main character who I can't wait to read more from I really loved Emma.
  • I loved all the twists and turn.
  • I enjoyed the surprises.
  • My absolute favourite thing about this story was all of the laugh out loud moments.
  • A storyline to literally die for.
  • I love stories about teachers and murder mysteries.
  • Emma and Leslie are wonderfully delightful armature sleuths; they make crime solving fun.
  • If you’re a Shakespeare lover like I am then you will enjoy the Shakespearian quotes bantered about in the story from Emma and Leslie
  • What I didn't like was the way the author tried to write in a Southern accent for Emma's character, I found that dialogue hard to read, I prefer if an author just describes that the character has an accent because then I naturally hear it in my head when I'm reading.

Favourite quote from the book

'No. I don't believe in omens. That rabbit's foot in my purse is there only because petting soft things calms my nerves. Really.'

Buy Death by Diploma at Amazon

Elisa Hordon, reviewerElisa lives on the Southern Highlands of NSW, Australia were she spends her days reading, journaling, painting, cooking and home schooling her daughter. She has always been an avid reader, Elisa loves reading many genres of books except horror; her favourite genres would be mystery, romance and paranormal. Elisa also loves pursuing many creative outlets if she is not relaxing with a book she can be found writing, sketching, painting or cooking. Elisa loves to share her obsession with books especially with her family and friends. Reading and reviewing books is a favourite pastime of Elisa’s.

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (228 pages)
published: January 2016 by Red Adept Publishing
ISBN13: 978-1940215624
genres: cozy mystery
source: author

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: A free ebook was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.