I’ve got four reviews for you today: a YA paranormal, a YA fantasy, and two MG reads. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Freaky in Fresno by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Published by Blink on 2/11/20
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Narrator: Madison Lawrence
Length: 8 hours and 16 minutes
Source: The Publisher, Library
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
Ricki has one goal: save the Starlight Drive-in movie theater from going dark forever. Okay, make that two goals … she may also want a first kiss from her cinema-rescuing partner and major crush, Jake. Lana definitely has only one goal: grow her online makeup channel to keep her momager off her back, even if the posts attract ugly internet trolls.
The two cousins couldn’t be more different, but their opposite personalities come crashing to a head when their aunt gifts the girls a vintage cotton-candy-pink convertible. To share. Ricki wants the convertible for the drive-in’s grand reopening, but it’s the same day as Digifest, a huge event where Lana needs to shine. After a major fight and a minor electric shock while wrestling over the wheel, Ricki wakes up as Lana, and Lana wakes up as Ricki.
Ricki and Lana have only a day to un-Freaky Friday themselves, a task made even more difficult as they try to keep up appearances on Lana’s channel and with Ricki’s hopefully-soon-to-be-kissed crush. But it turns out experiencing a day as each other—with a mini road trip in the Skylark and the Chihuahua wrangling it entails—may be the one thing that help the cousins see each other and themselves more clearly.
This is one of those books that’s just plain fun to read (or listen to, as I ended up doing). It takes the basic Freaky Friday premise and gives it a modern twist by making it about two cousins who couldn’t be more different. Ricki is a horror film buff who desperately wants to save her local drive-in theater—and share a perfect first kiss during the drive-in’s big night. Lana, on the other hand, is a blossoming beauty YouTube star who cares much more about her follower count than anything going on IRL—or at least that’s what Ricki thinks. When the two switch places and Ricki has to live Lana’s life for a day, she realizes that there’s a lot more behind her cousin’s YouTube obsession than just a desire to be popular. I loved that the book explored themes of how an online presence can be both rewarding and toxic. I think that teens will relate to Lana’s desire to show only her most perfect self to the world since that’s such a predominant theme in our culture right now. Meanwhile, she’s been hiding a whole host of secret fears and anxieties. Ricki’s self-sabotaging quest for the perfect first kiss is also incredibly relatable—she’s the type of girl who tries really hard to create that perfect scenario, only to mess up the natural romantic scenario that’s unfolding right in front of her. Overall, I found this to be an entertaining book with some great messages about friendship and family and walking a mile in someone else’s shoes!
NARRATION: Madison Lawrence did a great job with the narration, and I’d definitely listen to her again (actually I am, right now).
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher for review purposes (but ended up listening to the audiobook via my library). No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Published by Albert Whitman & Company, Dreamscape Media on August 13, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Narrator: Nancy Wu
Length: 12 hours and 38 minutes
Source: NetGalley, Library
Cover Artist: Feifei Ruan
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she's thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father's killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer--a treasonous act, punishable by death...because, in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago. Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira--a brilliant investigator who's also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
This ancient Chinese-based fantasy explores the idea of how history is written and crafted by the winners of a war. When Princess Hesina’s father is murdered, she vows to discover who was responsible. But the more she delves into the truth, the more she learns about her country’s history and how that history has been twisted to oppress a portion of the population known as sooths. For generations, her people have maintained what they consider to be a sort of utopia—a world of fairness and equality and peace. However, they’ve covered up many aspects of how that utopia came to be and the costs of maintaining it. The story is admittedly slow at the beginning, but it picks up with a series of twists that keep Hesina and the reader guessing as to who she can trust and what she will do once she uncovers a whole series of very inconvenient truths. Will she be able to lead her country toward a new future or will she be forced to maintain the status quo?
NARRATION: Though I didn’t have an actual issue with the narration, I’ll confess that listening to this book instead of reading it did present a problem for me: I kept getting characters’ names mixed up. This has never happened to me before while listening, but I think a few of the Chinese names sounded somewhat similar, and I had a really hard time keeping track of who was who. This caused me some real issues with tracking the story, but I didn’t count that off in my rating since it seemed like a “me problem.”
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes (and then ended up listening to the audiobook via my library). No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat
Series: Frazzled #1
Published by HarperCollins on September 27, 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: MG
Meet Abbie Wu! She’s about to start middle school and she’s totally in crisis.
Abbie Wu is in crisis—and not just because she’s stuck in a family that doesn’t quite get her or because the lunch ladies at school are totally corrupt or because everyone seems to have a “Thing” except her. Abbie Wu is in crisis always.
Heavily illustrated and embarrassingly honest, Frazzled dives right into the mind of this hilariously neurotic middle school girl as she tries to figure out who she is, where she belongs, and how to survive the everyday disasters of growing up. With Abbie’s flair for the dramatic and natural tendency to freak out, middle school has never seemed so nerve-racking!
Packed with hilarious black-and-white illustrations and doodles throughout, Frazzled takes readers through Abbie Wu’s hysterical middle school adventures.
This super cute book highlights the trials and tribulations of middle school! Abbi Wu is trying desperately to find her place in a new school where she seems destined to fail. She doesn’t feel like she has any special talents or interests that allow her to fit in automatically, and she fears that she might never find her niche. The book is full of youthful hyperbole and a whole lot of energy, and it’s sure to connect perfectly with kids who feel like middle school is the absolute worst. (My own son was part of that crowd—middle school was definitely a rough patch for us!) The book is heavily illustrated and just downright fun! And, best of all, it will help kids realize that middle school really can be navigated without disaster!
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano
Series: Love Sugar Magic #1
Also in this series: , A Sprinkle of Spirits
Published by Walden Pond Press on January 2, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Paranormal, Contemporary Fantasy
Cover Artist: Mirelle Ortega
My content rating: MG (MG-level romance)
Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.
Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.
Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.
And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?
This delightful middle-grade story reflects the challenges of growing up and feeling left behind. Leo is a bit jealous when her mom and sisters leave her out of the family business, and she’s downright hurt when she realizes they’ve been keeping secrets from her. But Leo’s discovery of just what those secrets are changes her life forever—she finds out that her family bakery is cooking up more than delectable treats. They’re serving magic! Of course, when she finds a magical recipe book, she can’t help but test it out to see if she has magic too.
Things go all sorts of wrong when Leo uses magic, and she struggles between wanting to ask her family for help and feeling like she has to solve the problems she’s created on her own. I think kids will find her struggles very realistic—Leo is expertly balanced between that budding independence that comes with growing up and the desire to be a real part of something at the same time. The push and pull of these two desires makes for a wonderful book!
The story features Mexican culture, fleshed-out friendships and family relationships, mouth-watering baked goods and the entertaining consequences of magic gone wrong. It’s a recipe for a wonderful book!
A Dash of Trouble sounds wonderful! I think everyone has felt left out/behind at some point, and there’s a comfort in reading about someone, who experienced that as well. I love the magical aspect and that the author integrated cultural aspects as well. Will the series follow the same character? It would be cool to see her grow up, a la Percy Jackson
Yes, I think that’s a very relatable theme.
The cover of Freaky in Fresno is so cute! I’m super curious about it if nothing else to see how important the chihuahua is.
Well, I won’t tell you then, so you’ll have to check it out. 🙂
I’ve been trying to shorten my reviews. It’s makes them less daunting and I think readers enjoy them too. Great minis! 🙂
I agree. Though I’ll confess that every once in a while one of my “bite-sized” reviews ends up being almost as long as a regular one. 🙂
Freaky in Fresno sounds like a fun read. I’ve had a similar experience with some of Laurie Boyle Crompton’s past works, so I can imagine what this one is like! I LOVE the cover for A Dash of Trouble, and the premise is fun. Descendant of the Crane is on my TBR.
I just finished listening to Pretty in Punxatawney, and it has the same sort of fun feel as this book!
I was on the fence about Descendant of the Crane. I have to say, I still kind of am? Though I may have already removed it from my Goodreads shelf, so that might be that ? A Dash of Trouble sounds like a good one to add to Lena’s list though! (Also, I stalked your Goodreads for books to recommend to Koh Tao Primary, because I knew they’d be in good shape if I used your recommendations!)
Based on what you said recently about your fantasy reading, I think Descendant may be a no for you. It’s one of those books that worked for me because I was listening, but I think it might have been slow if I read it?
Glad I could help you find books for Koh Tao!!
I had Freaky in Fresno, but just couldn’t keep my attention on it, which was too bad because I loved the cover and the synopsis was cute sounding! Glad you enjoyed it though. I’ve wanted to read Descendant of the Crane, may still have to look into that one! Great reviews!
I thought Freaky was cute, but I get that sometimes a book just doesn’t grab you!
Freaky in Fresno sounds like it is a lot of fun and we definitely need books like that at the moment! I am glad you also really liked it and that it approaches the online prescence so well. I have heard mixed things about Descendant of the Crane and decided it isn’t one for me, but I am glad that aside of the narration you could like that one. I love the title of Frazzled and those illusrations look lovely! And I have a friend who LOVES the Love Magic Sugar series so I think beyond the first book it is going to stay wonderful.
I know, right now feel-good books are just what I’m looking for!