I’ve got four reviews for you today: a YA contemporary, two YA paranormals, and a MG book contemporary in verse. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Every Other Weekend by Abigail Johnson
Published by Inkyard Press on January 7, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Cover Artist: Marissa Korda
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, but sexual assault is addressed)
Can life begin again…every other weekend?
Adam Moynihan’s life used to be awesome. Straight As, close friends and a home life so perfect that it could have been a TV show straight out of the 50s. Then his oldest brother died. Now his fun-loving mom cries constantly, he and his remaining brother can’t talk without fighting, and the father he always admired proved himself a coward by moving out when they needed him most.
Jolene Timber’s life is nothing like the movies she loves—not the happy ones anyway. As an aspiring director, she should know, because she’s been reimagining her life as a film ever since she was a kid. With her divorced parents at each other’s throats and using her as a pawn, no amount of mental reediting will give her the love she’s starving for.
Forced to spend every other weekend in the same apartment building, the boy who thinks forgiveness makes him weak and the girl who thinks love is for fools begin an unlikely friendship. The weekends he dreaded and she endured soon become the best part of their lives. But when one’s life begins to mend while the other’s spirals out of control, they realize that falling in love while surrounded by its demise means nothing is ever guaranteed.
I had no idea this was going to be such an emotional read! I’ll confess that at first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like these characters: Jolene is rebellious(ish) purely for the sake of aggravating her stepmom (who I really sort of felt sorry for) and Adam comes off as a bit holier than thou and is horrible to his dad. If you’ve been around the blog for long, you know that I sometimes have trouble with “unlikeable” (to me) protagonists. There’s even a hint of almost-cheating involved in the story. So, it’s a testament to Abigail Johnson’s writing ability that she soon had me wrapped up in these characters’ lives and wrapped around their little fingers. Sure, Adam is a jerk to his dad, but it’s only because of his deep love for his mom and his inability to see past her pain. Jolene is mean to just about everybody, but her life is a mess, and the more you learn about her, the more you see how she pushes people away as a defense mechanism. I so wanted happiness for these two and I was holding on by my fingernails whole they made poor choices that ripped them further from the elusive goal.
This is a story of both family fragility and family bonds that just won’t break, even in the most difficult of circumstances. In the end, tears were shed (by me and the characters), and I was left with that feeling of satisfaction that you get when everything is wrapped up perfectly but not too tidily.
I highly recommend this book!
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Storm and Fury by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: The Harbinger #1
Published by Inkyard Press on June 11, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Length: 14 hours and 20 minutes
Source: NetGalley, Library
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, Some violence)
Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.
When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…
I loved jumping back into the world of the Dark Elements Series! This spin-off series could definitely be read without having read the first, but people who’ve read the original series will have an even deeper love for many of the characters. (One of the reasons that I’m so late to reading this one is because I hadn’t realized it was a spin-off when I requested it and I … ahem … had never gotten to the final book of the original series. This book would definitely have spoiled that final book for me in a lot of ways.)
I sort of love that I didn’t really thoroughly read the synopsis for this before I read it because I was surprised and delighted that Zayne is the love interest! Even after I realized it was a spin-off, I thought it was going to take place much later than the original series. But, no—this book starts off just about six months after everything went terribly wrong (and then right) in Every Last Breath. I really liked Roth in Dark Elements, but my true heart was Team Zayne all the way—so a series where he finds true love and happiness is my dream!
Okay, but I should probably talk about this actual book, right? I loved Trinity—she fits Armentrout’s typical archetype of a kick-butt heroine, but she’s also facing the reality of going blind because of a degenerative eye disease (which Armentrout actually has, so we get an excellent #OwnVoices viewpoint of the disease and the emotions that go with it). We know right from the beginning that Trinity is special in some way—not completely human—and that she’s also in danger of being targeted by demons. Honestly, the “secret” of her parentage goes on a little long, in my opinion (I guessed from the very beginning who good old dad was), but there are other twists I didn’t see coming at all. I won’t say anything more about them for fear of spoilers.
Basically, if you’re a fan of Armentrout, you’ll love this book because it ticks all her usual boxes: snarky banter, a star-crossed romance, some cool twists and a whole lot of paranormal shenanigans!
NARRATION: I ended up listening to this one as an audiobook since I’d just done a reread of the original series via audio (well, first two books were rereads, anyway).
I have to say that I LOVED Lauren Fortgang’s narration so much that I went and checked out what other books she’s narrated (not something I often do). Until I got to the part of the book where Roth and Layla showed up—maybe it’s because I’d just listened to Roth and Layla’s voices for the original series (done by a different narrator), but Roth’s voice sounded weirdly low to me and Layla’s was a high-pitched, sweet voice that didn’t sound anything like what I was expecting. Still I really did love the narration overall—Fortgang captured Trinity’s snark perfectly and really made the story come alive—so I tried hard to overlook the strange-sounding Roth and Layla voices. 🙂
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Published by HarperTeen on October 24, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Retellings
Narrator: Erin Spencer
Source: Edelweiss, Library
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
And then she died.
Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.
Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable.
But this year, everything is about to change. . . .
I’m not sure why I put off reading this book for so long. I think when it came out, I saw a few meh reviews that scared me off. But then Kristen over @ Metaphors and Moonlight reviewed it recently and got me interested again. I’d forgotten that the book is an A Christmas Carol retelling, and I thought it was the perfect time for me to jump into it (since this was right before Christmas). So glad I did, because I really enjoyed this book!
The concept is fun: Holly has to go work for Project Scrooge as The Ghost of Christmas Past when she fails to turn her life around (and thus save herself) after her own Scrooge experience. Most of the story takes place five years after she becomes TGoCP, and I was surprised when we meet up with her and find that she’s learned … nothing. Basically, she hasn’t had any huge revelations since she died. She’s living in a perpetually 17-year-old body and has many of the same thoughts that she did before she died. I mean, she’s a little bit reformed—she isn’t as outwardly mean and shallow anymore—but she’s still pretty stuck in her self-centered ways. Until the newest Scrooge is designated. And he’s a hot 17-year-old guy.
Holly’s interest in the new Scrooge starts off being predictably shallow. But as the book progresses, she learns some details about him that also make her face some of the tragedies in her own life—and the negative ways in which she responded to them. Through the process of trying to help someone she can relate to, she finds herself evaluating the relationships she squandered when she was alive.
I was engaged throughout the book. When (out of curiosity) I glanced back at a few meh reviews, I noticed that people’s biggest complaint was that it was too long. That may have been the case—I am much more tolerant of slower-paced or longer books when I listen vs. when I read. So I had no problem with the length. And the end of the book goes in a really interesting direction I wasn’t fully expecting (always a bonus, in my mind). I really enjoyed this touch of holiday cheer and a twist on an old favorite!
NARRATION: I thought Erin Spencer did a great job with the narration for this one. She helped make a sometimes bratty MC more palatable! 🙂
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
All of Me by Chris Baron
on June 11, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Verse
Source: Purchased, Library
Cover Artist: Eileen Savage
My content rating: Middle Grade (Bullying due to weight)
"Beautifully written, brilliant, and neccesary." --Matt de la Pena, Newbery Medalist
Ari has body-image issues. After a move across the country, his parents work selling and promoting his mother's paintings and sculptures. Ari's bohemian mother needs space to create, and his father is gone for long stretches of time on "sales" trips.
Meanwhile, Ari makes new friends: Pick, the gamer; the artsy Jorge, and the troubled Lisa. He is also relentlessly bullied because he's overweight, but he can't tell his parents—they're simply not around enough to listen.
After an upsetting incident, Ari's mom suggests he go on a diet, and she gives him a book to help. But the book—and the diet—can’t fix everything. As Ari faces the demise of his parents' marriage, he also feels himself changing, both emotionally and physically. Here is a much-needed story about accepting the imperfect in oneself and in life.
This middle grade novel in verse chronicles a seventh grade boy’s struggle with his weight, but it also goes much deeper than that. While, on the surface, Ari’s issues stem from his weight and the bullying that comes with it, the underlying issues that have led to his unhealthy eating are at this story’s forefront. Ari sees his family breaking apart, he has trouble adjusting after a move and he feels like an outsider in almost every area of his life (even in his religion—he’s trying to prepare for his bar mitzvah, but he’s already a year late, and he has no real support from his family).
Baron’s verse is used beautifully to describe Ari’s uncomfortableness in his own skin: the way his clothes feel because they don’t fit him right, but also the way his self doesn’t seem to fit the image everyone has molded of him. After a particularly nasty bullying incident, Ari is put on a strict diet and he loses weight—but it’s not until he takes control of his own life and his own destiny that he starts to feel true change. I will say that part of Ari’s transformation is physical, so if you’re sensitive about the concept that weight loss is helpful and/or necessary, this book might not be for you. And I’ll confess that there were moments in the book where I worried that too much emphasis was being put on his strict diet. But Ari’s real growth comes from his realization that his outer self doesn’t define who he is as a person and the book shows his journey toward self-love, whatever the number on the scale might say.
I was a fat teenager, so All of Me would have been a good book for me to have back then. I don’t remember reading any books about fat kids when I was a teen.
I don’t think there were many books about this topic until recently. It’s nice to see it getting attention since weight is something so many people struggle with.
I really enjoyed Storm and Fury. Not quite as much as the original trilogy (I was totally invested in Layla + Roth) but I’m pretty much a sucker for anything Armentrout writes. 🙂 Trinity is great heroine (and it’s interesting that Armentrout gave her the same eye disease that she herself has) and it’s good to see Zayne move on after the events in the earlier books.
I think I was one of the ONLY people who was Team Zayne in the original trilogy. I was definitely happy to see Zayne get a leading role.
I haven’t read any of those but I do like a book that surprises me by its depth of emotion.
Yes, it’s always nice when you get more than you were expecting from a book.
Nice reviews! I hadn’t heard anything about The Afterlife of Holly Chase before, but it sounds cute!
It was a really fun retelling!
I had also put off Holly Chase because of early reviews, but ended up really enjoying it. It was very fresh twist on A Christmas Carol, and I cried. I was very happy/sad at the ending.
I love Abigail Johnson so much. She does top notch family drama, and she doesn’t allow her characters to be horrible for no reason. She also gave them room for growth and redemption. And, I agree, the ending was not neat, but it was sort of perfect, and very hopeful
I hadn’t even remembered that it was A Christmas Carol retelling, so I was really glad I ran across some reviews when I did.
I have not read any of these. I have been seeing some great reviews for Every Other Weekend so I might have to check that one out. All of Me sounds good and I like that it is told in verse. I am not sure if I have read a book told in verse before but I like the sound of it.
Oh, you should definitely read some verse books!! I’ll have to write a post with suggestions!
Great reviews! I have read Holly Chase. Like you, I did like it. But I am sure my review was one of the “too long meh” ones hahah. It was much draggier to read, for me anyway. But cute, and definitely not bad or anything! I assumed Every Other Weekend would be fluffyish too, which is why it wasn’t on my radar, so I am glad to know it’s more emotional! (I also LOVE the cover!)
Yeah, you were one of the ones I saw. I think those books work better for me as an audiobook since I break up the “reading” experience more anyway. So the laggy parts don’t go on so long. 🙂
I have Every Other Weekend on my tbr and I will definitely be picking it up when I want an emotional read. And I’m so glad you enjoyed Storm and Fury. I was always on Team Roth but I wanted Zayne to have his own story and I’m so thankful that JLA gave him one. I’m actually enjoying this spin-off series more than the original, which I didn’t think was possible.
I think most people were Team Roth—I knew I was in the minority, and I knew what the result of the vote would be way before the final book in the original trilogy came out. 🙂
I’m particularly curious about The Afterlife of Holly Chase. I think it sounds like a good read – glad to hear you enjoyed it.
I hope you enjoy it if you pick it up!
I thought every other weekend was excellent! The twists near the end really broke me and showed me just how much Jolene was suffering. Such a beautiful, realistic story.
Yes, you’re so right about that ending!
Glad to hear Every Other Weekend surprised you that much! The writing sounds fantastic! I’ll have to check it out! I’m number two now on the waiting list for the audio of The Afterlife of Holly Chase! Cam’t wait!
Hope you enjoy Afterlife when you come up in the queue!
I’m glad you liked Holly Chase! You did a great job of talking about the growth in the book. I’m also glad to see my review didn’t spoil the surprise of the ending. I had really wanted to talk more about that but managed to refrain lol. Also, that’s funny you mention being more tolerant of slow books when listening because I’ve realized I’m the same way. I wonder why that is!
I think for me, the difference of slow books while listening is the fact that I listen in spurts anyway. So, when I’m reading and a book is slow, I feel like, “Okay, when does this pick up?” and I get antsy. But when I’m listening to it in spurts—trips in the car and while doing random chores—it’s already broken up and I don’t notice the slow pacing as much. At least, that’s all that I can figure.
I have to admit I’d not heard of Every Other Weekend until I read this review of yours but it sounds amazing – like it was well written and handles the themes it tackles wonderfully. I am going to go and look it up on Goodreads. I have the Afterlife of Holly Chase but haven’t read it. I will save it for a Christmas maybe this year, but it sounds like the character certainly develops a lot and I love A Christmas Carol!
I love it when I find a book on someone’s blog that’s totally new to me!
The Afterlife of Holly Chase was…interesting. I really enjoyed the concept of it, but the brattiness of the MC put me off just a little bit. Every Other Weekend sounds so good! And the fact that it’s an emotional read is definitely intriguing. Great reviews as always!! ??
I can definitely understand how the MC could turn people off. In fact, I’m surprised that it didn’t work that way for me, since I’m often not a fan of unlikable narrators.
Ahhh I’m so happy you loved Every Other Weekend. I’ve been eyeing this book for a little while now and it sounds like the kind of emotional contemporary I’d adore. I’m so happy you enjoyed it, you have me really impatient to read it now 😀
I enjoy these types of contemporaries too—this one was perfect for me!