Starr Fall by Kim Briggs (Book Review & Giveaway)

51rBBKqt6QLAs a thank-you to readers, author Kim Briggs, has generously donated a copy of Starr Fall to giveaway to one lucky person. To be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post by Friday, March 24th, 2017. Winner will be notified by email.

*****

Preparing to take an entrance test for the Leadership Academy, high school junior, Starr Bishop, has no idea how much her life will change in a matter of hours. Starr is a typical high school student, highly successful, heavily involved, and popular. Everyone loves her and she is athletic (a star swimmer),  beautiful, and smart – the whole package. It turns out that The Organization wants her to be their lead assassin and lead the other recruits. After completing the test, Starr is held against her will and told that she will be trained as an elite assassin. Her two best friends have been killed by the Organization, their deaths staged to look like a car accident. Thanks to her excellent swimming skills and brave determination, Starr is able to escape from the Organization. Now she is on the run from them, with virtually no information about why they chose her and what exactly they want her to do. What she does know is that they are extremely dangerous and will stop at nothing to find her. As she tries to figure out how best to hide, an unlikely guardian angel turns up to help – Christian Evergood. Christian may put up a front at school as a Goth loner, but he turns out to be a regular teenage boy who can’t resist Starr’s charm. Part Cherokee and very knowledgeable about nature, Christian is also sexy and mysterious. He has a place to hide and a plan, so he decides to protect Starr with his life, no matter the cost. What has he got to lose? Starr is a strong female character who doesn’t need anyone to save her; but when help shows up out of the blue in the form of Christian, she decides to go with the flow. And readers will be so glad she did.

The story is written in completely in Starr’s point of view. The sequel, Starr Lost, which was released in January 2017, actually switches back and forth between Starr’s and Christian’s point of view. I certainly would like to see what is going on in Christian’s mind! Briggs has done an excellent job of developing interesting, unique characters in both Starr and Christian. There is quite a bit of mystery to the story, as well. Starr, who readers later find out is actually named Jessica, has secrets regarding her grandparents, who try to kidnap her in their mansion after not having seen her for many years. There is quite a bit more romance to this story than in most suspense novels. However, I say that as a good thing! The romantic scenes are more implied than explicit, which  I appreciate. A few of the scenes are very tense, such as when the Organization first kidnaps her and when she is locked inside the mansion by her grandparents, to name a few. The ending is abrupt and clearly leads into the next part of the series. Like myself, readers will be excited to continue Starr and Christian’s love story, as well as figure out more about the Organization and how Starr will avenge her friends’ deaths.

This is a well-written series starter which teens and adults alike will enjoy. As I mentioned, the romance is not explicit and the language is pretty tame, so the book is appropriate for even younger teens and tweens.

*****

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Kim for donating a copy of Starr Fall to give away to a lucky reader!

To enter to win the book, please leave a comment on this post. Contest ends Friday, March 24th, 2017. Winner will be notified by email. 

 

What Light by Jay Asher

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What Light will be published on October 18, 2016 by Razorbill (a Penguin imprint).

Though meant for the young adult audience, adults would really enjoy this story as well. With respect to many YA books, the language and romance are very tame. What Light was like a breath of fresh air, compared to some of the YA books that I have read which are full of sex scenes and unsavory language.

This is a perfect book to get into the Holiday season and spirit of giving. For Sierra, Christmas tree farming has been in her family for generations and it is her life. She looks forward to the Holiday season each year, when she temporarily moves from Oregon to California to set up a Christmas tree lot there. Having done so since she was 5, Sierra has developed a set of best friends and neighbors in each of her homes. This Holiday season, however, is going to be bittersweet because it may be Sierra’s last winter spent in California. Her family doesn’t know how much longer they can afford to keep the tree lot open in California during the Holiday season. As with all the years prior, Sierra spends her days working at the Christmas tree lot and her free time with her best friend, Heather.

Though determined not to, Sierra ends up meeting and falling for a guy. Right away, Sierra can tell that Caleb is unlike any of the guys she has known in the past. Sierra has heard rumors about his past and she wonders about the truth. How can a guy who uses his own hard earned money to purchase Christmas trees for others be as bad as the rumors suggest? As Sierra gets closer to Caleb, despite her father’s protests, the Holiday season is also drawing to an end. Once Sierra discovers the truth about Caleb, will she be able to move forward and help him find forgiveness?  Along with the themes of first love and friendship, this novel also has a large focus on family relationships. Sierra’s relationship with her parents will change a bit this Holiday season as well.

I truly loved this book, and I couldn’t put it down. It really put me into the spirit for the upcoming Holiday season. Jay Asher has a knack for creating real characters; characters we can see in those around us on a daily basis. I highly recommend this book!

The Summer Before Forever By Melissa Chambers

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I am excited to be participating in the YA Reads Blog Tour for The Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers. Below is all the information about the book, followed by my review and a giveaway!

The Summer Before ForeverAbout the Book

The Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers
Published by Entangled Teen (YA Contemporary genre)
To be released August 22nd, 2016
Amazon
Entangled Teen
Barnes & Noble

Some boys break your heart. Others teach you how to heal it.

Chloe Stone’s life is a hot mess. Determined to stop being so freaking skittish, she packs up her quasi-famous best friend and heads to Florida. The goal? Complete the summer bucket list to end all bucket lists. The problem? Her hot soon-to-be stepbrother, Landon Jacobs.

Landon’s mom will throttle him if he even looks at his future stepsister the wrong way. Problem is, Chloe is everything he didn’t know he wanted, and that’s…inconvenient. Watching her tear it up on a karaoke stage, stand up to his asshole friend, and rock her first string bikini destroys his sanity.

But there’s more than their future family on the line. Landon is hiding something—something he knows will change how she feels about him—and she’s hiding something from him, too. And when the secrets come out, there’s a good chance neither will look at the other the same way again…

About the Author

melissa chambers

Melissa Chambers writes contemporary novels for young, new, and actual adults. A Nashville native, she spends her days working in the music industry and her nights tapping away at her keyboard. While she’s slightly obsessed with alt rock, she leaves the guitar playing to her husband and kid. She never misses a chance to play a tennis match, listen to an audiobook, or eat a bowl of ice cream. (Rocky road, please!) She’s a member of SCBWI and RWA including several local and online chapters thereof. She holds her B.S. in Communications from the University of Tennessee.
Website: http://www.melissachambers.com
Twitter: @MelChambersAuth

 

Librarian Laura’s Review

The Summer Before Forever is a classic forbidden love story, in which there seems to really be no way it can end well for the characters involved. The story line moves along quidkly, keeping the reader’s interest with alternating points of view between Chloe and Landon.

Chloe plans to spend the summer with her wild & crazy best friend, Jenna, at the beach in Florida without any cares or worries. Little does she know, her life is going to heat up in more ways than one in the Sunshine State. Upon arrival from her home in TN, she meets her dad’s fiance and future step-brother, Landon, for the first time. Rather than the geek she assumed he would be, Landon is instead an all-American heartthrob. He’s smart, gorgeous, gentlemanly, a football player and a wrestler. The total package. The only problem: he’ll be her step-brother later in the summer. Landon immediately takes notice in Chloe, and Chloe is drawn right to him even though she knows she should steer clear.

As they get to know one another oh so well, they begin to realize that summer will soon end. Landon will be off to college and Chloe will be back to her life in Tennessee. Will the end of the summer be the end of their heated, secret romance? Or, will they find a way to make things work before it’s too late. No doubt about it, Chloe’s summer in Florida will be a summer to remember.

Jenna’s character is hilarious – she’s the best friend that every girl wants – loyal to a fault, but crazy enough to keep life interesting. Jenna decides that Chloe needs to gain confidence so she makes is her personal mission, creating a confidence building list of tasks for Chloe to complete over the summer. As the summer wares on and Chloe’s confidence grows, she also becomes more comfortable with herself and her decisions. The novel is nicely combined with romance, humor, and coming-of-age elements.

The ending left me wanting more information on what would happen with Chloe and Landon, but I’m glad to see that it will be a series. I wonder what the next chapter will hold for them. I found some of the story to be predictable in parts, but all in all, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of romance and contemporary YA fiction.

Click here for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

 

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

9780812996081_8119b.jpgMiller’s Valley is set to be published on April 5, 2016.

I’ve always been a big fan of whatever Anna Quindlen writes, one of my favorites is Black and Blue. Quindlen has a knack for making the reader feel like they are really submersed in the story and in the life of the family being portrayed. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this story, but I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

This is the story of Mary Margaret Miller, who goes by Mimi. It’s a coming of age story, in which the reader watches Mimi grow up and move on with life over and over again, despite some road blocks along the way. The largest of which being the fact that the government plans to flood the valley in order to build a dam, like they did to the neighboring town of Andover a few years back. Along with the day to day stress of family life in a rural farming community is the constant impending doom of when their home and life as they know it be flooded out from under them.

Mimi is not the type to cause any trouble within her family, because there are plenty of others doing that for her. Her older brother, Tommy, also her mother’s pride and joy, is and always will be a playboy, in and out of trouble for as long as Mimi can remember. Mimi grew up on the farm, one of the last remaining Millers of Miller’s Valley, where her family before her has lived for generations. Her father is a farmer and fix-it man, while her mother is a nurse at the local hospital. Mimi’s aunt Ruth lives in the little house just behind her parents house, and she has refused to leave the house for years. Mimi goes through school getting good grades and attempts to leave Miller’s Valley, things keep happening with her brother Tommy, father, aunt Ruth, or mother to hold her back.

My favorite part of this book are the deep relationships between Mimi and the other characters. Mimi narrates the story, so the reader gets to know how she thinks and recognizes all the times where she holds back what she really feels led to say or do, because she is appeasing someone else or keeping the peace, or what little is left of it. Her childhood relationships with friends, Donald and LaRhonda, sibling relationships with Ed and Tommy, and even the parent-child relationships with her father and mother are interesting and keep the reader’s attention. Will Mimi end up like her aunt Ruth, refusing to leave her home or Miller’s Valley? Or will she finally do what Tommy encouraged her to do, get out of Miller’s Valley while she can, in order to make a life for herself? You’ll want to read it to find out. Great story. I especially loved the ending, where Mimi as an old woman looks back on her life and really puts everything in perspective.

The Distance From Me to You by Marina Gessner

First, let me show you the cover of this book. It’s simple, but it sums up the book in a nutshell. I really love the cover, and the book is pretty great too. Read below to find out why.

I would classify this as part romantic fiction, part survival fiction. The book is intended for young adults, but adults would enjoy it just as much. McKenna has just graduated from high school and has big plans for the near future. While the majority of her classmates and boyfriend are headed off to start at college, she and her best friend have deferred a semester in order to hike the Appalachian Trail. They have studied and read about the AT, purchased all the required gear, and hiked many miles in preparation. The Appalachian Trail runs from Maine to Georgia, some 2,000 miles, which McKenna plans to hike in about two months time. A few days before their departure, McKenna’s best friend bails out on her for a guy. McKenna makes the decision to hike the trail alone, asking her friend to cover for her and pretend to be along on the trip so her parents won’t know. McKenna is a strong-willed, determined character, and it’s apparent from the beginning of the book that she is fully capable of completing the challenge she has set for herself.

While on the trail, McKenna crosses paths with Sam, a good looking guy who becomes more intriguing each time they cross paths. While McKenna grew up in a household with loving parents who provided for her every whim, Sam didn’t have such luck. He took off for the trail in order to escape an abusive, alcoholic father. His only other living relative is a brother who he hasn’t seen in years. No one has reported Sam missing, even though he has been out on the trail alone for months. Sam doesn’t have much to look forward to or much of a purpose until he meets McKenna.

The story takes a sharp turn when Sam and McKenna decide to go against all the warnings and go off trail to camp one day. This split decision leads to very dangerous, uncharted territory,  which neither Sam or McKenna has ever been before. Will they survive and find their way back to the Appalachian Trail, and back to each other?

I really appreciated the way the author didn’t focus too much on the romantic relationship between Sam and McKenna, but instead on their individual character traits, in order to show their bravery and resilience. I loved the way the book ended, even though it didn’t end the way I pictured or hoped it would. Not every story has a happy ending with the lovers in an embrace. And that sort of ending just wouldn’t fit this book. Also, I learned quite a bit about the Appalachian Trail, and enjoyed learning about “trail magic,” which is the kindness of strangers throughout portions of the trail. It was also neat the way the author described nature on the AT, especially the birds which Sam and McKenna liked to identify by their calls.

Overall, a very neat book. I would suggest it for teenagers and adults.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

9780553496642_9ffdfEverything, Everything is an awesome YA novel. Fans of Eleanor and Park, The Fault in Our Stars, and/or If I Stay will love this novel with similar themes and style. Along with the regular story narrative, there are diary entries, illustrations, and lists which enhance the story and help readers to become more familiar with Maddy, the main character. Maddy has a rare disease that causes her to be very sick at times, but the triggers which cause sickness are unknown. And, for that reason, she hasn’t left her house in 17 years and has almost no face-to-face contact with the outside world. She reads books, some many times over. I loved the descriptions and reviews Maddy gives about books, and the way the author weaves in bits of famous literature to the novel. Aside from her mother, her daily nurse Carla, and the occasional visit from her tutor, Maddy only interacts with people through Skype, email, and IM. Until the day everything changes. A moving truck pulls up next door and Maddy looks out her window and sees Olly. Something about him tells her that her life will not be the same any longer. The author describes it best:

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I loved everything about this book. The style of writing was direct, intense, and beautiful. At times, the relationships between Maddy and her mother, between Maddy and Carla, and between Maddy and Olly were filled with raw emotion that, as a reader, I could really feel. I laughed out loud as I read Olly’s shenanigans with the Bundt cake. I cried at the end, but I won’t tell you why. The illustrations, spoiler book reviews, and dictionary entries by Maddy throughout the book were wonderful and really added an extra dimension to the story. Also, being a book nerd and lover of pages, I loved that the story started with books and ended with a book. You’ll see what I mean. Just read it, and you’ll be in love with it just like me.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

wewereliarsI’ve heard a lot about this popular YA book and I’ve been meaning to read it for some time. This past week, one of my students checked it out from the public library and put it on my desk with a demand to “read it!” So, I did. And, I am pleased. It was a beautifully written story spanning 3 (what should have been) idyllic summers with the Sinclair family, as they spent time on their own private island, wanting of nothing. However, money doesn’t buy happiness, as they say. The book is surrounded by mystery as the reader follows the main character, Cadence or Cady, as she tries to remember what happened during the summer she was 15 that caused her to have such terrible migraine headaches. She remembers small details, but can’t quite put together the whole story, and no one will answer her questions or tell her what happened, because they don’t want to upset her. By the end the book, I was glad to finally figure out what happened, but it was definitely not what I expected. It’s a quick read, and I would recommend it to my HS kids. I’ve ordered a copy for our school library.