Publisher: Little Brown BFYR

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Review: The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

January 5, 2018 Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-JonesThe Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Published by Little Brown BFYR on August 8, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-half-stars
When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.

With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?

But Who Does it Represent?

  • Dee is a Latina girl from an abusive, alcoholic home
  • Riley is trans

Ah, a novel in which someone might say “it cost me an arm and a leg” and mean it literally! The novel’s blend of magical realism and the paranormal entertains with its team of portal destroyers and brave, desperate heroine Dee as much as it horrifies with its homunculi and the more mundane, reality-grounded horror of exactly why Dee sold her heart away for boarding school tuition money.

The outlandish and the unfortunately everyday blend seamlessly, though the novel’s pacing is a bit lax and it’s somewhat repetitive toward the middle. Luckily, James and Dee’s developing romance helps pick up some of the slack. One major event that isn’t satisfactorily handled may ruin the book for some readers, but I found myself engaged enough that I overlooked it for a while.

And that ending? I CRIED A LOT, READER. Though I find it unlikely I’ll reread this book due to those waterworks, it’s going on that bookshelf I reserve for all books with value to me as a writer–because it gave me some serious writerly inspiration.

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Review: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

April 28, 2016 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★½

Review: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel PitcherKetchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Published by Little Brown BFYR on November 12, 2013
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
two-half-stars
Dear Mr. S. Harris,

Ignore the blob of red in the top left corner. It's jam, not blood, though I don't think I need to tell you the difference. It wasn't your wife's jam the police found on your shoe. . . .

I know what it's like.

Mine wasn't a woman. Mine was a boy. And I killed him exactly three months ago.

Zoe has an unconventional pen pal--Mr. Stuart Harris, a Texas Death Row inmate and convicted murderer. But then again, Zoe has an unconventional story to tell. A story about how she fell for two boys, betrayed one of them, and killed the other.

Hidden away in her backyard shed in the middle of the night with a jam sandwich in one hand and a pen in the other, Zoe gives a voice to her heart and her fears after months of silence. Mr. Harris may never respond to Zoe's letters, but at least somebody will know her story--somebody who knows what it's like to kill a person you love. Only through her unusual confession can Zoe hope to atone for her mistakes that have torn lives apart, and work to put her own life back together again.

Rising literary star Annabel Pitcher pens a captivating second novel, rich with her distinctive balance between humor and heart. Annabel explores the themes of first love, guilt, and grief, introducing a character with a witty voice and true emotional resonance.

Before anything else, SPOILER WARNING AHOY. HERE THAR BE SPOILERS. To adequately review this, I’ve got to reveal THE big twist.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 3 (Zoe’s youngest sister Dot is deaf/hearing impaired and it’s simply part of the family’s life to sign with her)
Intersectionality: 1 (Zoe’s family is in pretty dire financial straits)

Really, when a book’s premise rests on the idea that the main character killed someone, it turns out in one of two ways: they either did kill the person or they feel so guilty about the person’s death that they blame themselves to the utmost degree and say they committed murder. See: Thicker Than Water by Kelly Fiore and this book right here, which has recently been reprinted as Yours Truly. It’s a simple psychological thriller idea–did they do it or not?–but there’s so much room to explore the human mind that it’s not simple at all. More like an idea that occurs often.

Having read Thicker Than Water so close to reading Ketchup Clouds (aka three months apart) when the two were published close to four years apart, I can’t help but compare them. The former helps me pinpoint exactly how my opinion on Ketchup Clouds changed so quickly and it all comes down to how the “did they do it or not?” question is explored/handled. (Don’t worry, I won’t be spoiling Thicker Than Water for you. I want you to read it.) Read more »

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Review: Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

March 21, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica HesseGirl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Published by Little Brown BFYR on April 5, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Historical
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
two-stars
An unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible times

The missing girl is Jewish. I need you to find her before the Nazis do.


Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman's frantic plea to find a person--a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

Meticulously researched, intricately plotted, and beautifully written, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice in historical fiction.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0 (plenty of Jewish characters, but they’re almost negligent in the story of their suffering)
QUILTBAG: 1 (Ollie is gay and in a relationship with his roommate)
Disability: 0
Intersectinality: 0

Maybe I’ve finally overdosed on World War II YA fiction? There are more than just a few examples of novels that fit that category, but I don’t think I’ve been so underwhelmed by such a novel as I am with Girl in the Blue Coat. It’s… Well, finding words to describe what’s wrong here is so hard, but in general, the novel takes the story away from the Jewish people in Amsterdam and makes it about the non-Jewish people helping them. They have nowhere near the voice they deserve as the group suffering most during the Nazi occupation of both Amsterdam, the wider Netherlands, and the whole of the Nazi regime. Read more »

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Review: Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

September 28, 2015 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Bitter End by Jennifer Brownby Jennifer Brown
Published by Little Brown BFYR Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Source: Bought (Used Bookstore)
Goodreads
two-stars
He told me he loved me and I believed him.
When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole -- a handsome, funny sports star who adores her -- she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate . . . someone who truly loves and understands her.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, and increasingly violent threats.


As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose -- between her "true love" and herself.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Jennifer Brown’s novels have made me sob and left me cold. The quality of them is pretty unpredictable, really. When they’re good, they’re great, but when they’re bad, they’re paint-by-numbers Social Issue kind of books: not necessarily bad but trying too hard to be current. I’ve eyed Bitter End for years and hoped it would work for me, but it’s probably my least favorite of Brown’s YA novels so far. Read more »

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Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

March 20, 2015 Reviews 0 ★★

Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia BoeckerThe Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
Series: The Witch Hunter #1
Published by Little Brown BFYR on June 2, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy, YA Historical, YA Paranormal
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
two-stars
The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut. Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. When she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to die at the stake. Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can track down the person who laid a deadly curse on him. As she's thrust into the world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and all-too-handsome healers, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
LGBT: 0

Disability: 0
Intersectional: 0

Lord, how long have I been excited for The Witch Hunter? I want more witchcraft in my YA all the time and it sounded wonderful from the very start, so on my TBR it went with me waiting anxiously for when I might be able to read it. Then lo! Amazon Vine offers me a great boon in the form of a copy of this book! Getting the package and holding the book was EXCITING. Reading it? Errrr, not so much. The Witch Hunter is thoroughly predictable and lifeless even as it’s compulsively readable. Read more »

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Waiting on Wednesday (16): The One Where I Finally Do It Again

February 11, 2015 Waiting on Wednesday 1

Waiting on Wednesday (16): The One Where I Finally Do It AgainThe Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
Published by Little Brown BFYR on June 2, 2015
Pages: 368
The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. When she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to die at the stake. Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can track down the person who laid a deadly curse on him.

As she's thrust into the world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and all-too-handsome healers, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Yeah, I know it’s been a while since I did a Waiting on Wednesday post. School and home took over and I spent more time hiding from my niece and trying to mentally recover from the clusterfuck that was last spring. ANYWAY.

I swear the original pitch for this book was something better than “Graceling meets Game of Thrones” and I can’t remember what it was. Either way, The Witch Hunter sounds like it will be a blast. Witches were my first reading fascination after the vampire phase in middle school and I’m still open to witchy books that sounds like they’ll kick ass. And I’ll find out soon if it kicks ass because a copy is on its way to me! ALL HAIL THE AMAZON GODS. (aka I got a copy from Amazon Vine because I’ve given Amazon enough souls to deign me worthy. It may be the devil, but I get more print review books from it than I do from publishers.)

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Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

January 16, 2015 Reviews 2 ★★★★★

Review: Hate List by Jennifer BrownHate List by Jennifer Brown
Published by Little Brown BFYR on September 1, 2009
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
five-stars
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

AND I THOUGHT TORN AWAY WAS THE WORST THING JENNIFER BROWN COULD INFLICT ON MY HEART. I WAS SO WRONG. Ahem. My experience with her novels before ranged from soul-destroying (Torn Away) to okay (Thousand Words), so my expectations for Hate List were that it would be somewhere between the two. NOPE. Hate List broke the scale, my heart, and my brain even though it should have been broken years ago because of how much I’ve read about school shootings. Read more »

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