YA Book Review

Let’s Get Lost

Four Stars

Title: Let’s Get Lost

Author: Adi Alsaid

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Length: 339 Pages


Five strangers. Countless adventures.One epic way to get lost.

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.

There’s HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila’s own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get lost along the way.

Overall Review:

Let’s Get Lost had a lot of elements that I found charming. It touched on some very real struggles, as well as some very real and wonderful aspects of belonging to the human race. And the adventures…oh, the adventures. I love a book with mystery and exploration. All of the characters were pretty intriguing, but none of them were really very different from the characters I’ve read in the past. There were some repetitive elements in the plot, as well, but overall this was a pretty fun read.

The book follows Leila’s trip to Alaska (to see the Northern Lights!), but it’s told through other people she meets throughout her trip. This element didn’t work for me. I found myself frustrated with the different Points of View- they weren’t different enough, they were overly annoying, and I got the impression most of them were pretty passive characters. It contrasts nicely with Leila’s boldness, but it was still a rough spot for me.

I enjoyed the hints of sadness that were dropped from Leila’s overly bubbly personality. Someone that carefree is always hiding something, and I was refreshed when we finally got to hear the story from her own words. I didn’t really emotionally connect with her and her story, but I found her to be a very developed and interesting main character.
The biggest issue I had was the ending. It was too tidy. When there is emotional stuff going on and a lot of different elements that are brought up in the story, I kind of hate it when things resolve so nicely at the end.

All in all, though, it was a pretty good book and one that shows the talent of the author. I look forward to reading more of her works in the future.


The Girl of Ink and Stars


Five Stars

Title: The Girl of Ink and Stars

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Publisher: Chicken House UK

Length: 288 Pages


Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

Overall Review:

I’ve been hearing a lot about The Girl of Ink and Stars ever since it was released in May, so I knew it was a must-read for me. I was drawn to it initially because I really like maps- and a cartographer’s daughter seemed like such a unique character to write. I was so happy I put this on my to-read list. It was such a pleasant story- so charming and uplifting and refreshing. Not to mention the book itself was beautifully designed. The cover is flawless and the internal pages are so pretty. It’s a quick read- I finished it in about half a day.

The two things I loved the most was the world the author designed and the characters she created. Joya was so awesome! It was magical and surrounded by myths- my favorite kind of island! The way it was written was so tangible, and I had no problems getting immediately immersed in Isabella’s world. Speaking of Isabella, her character and her relationships were lovely to read…and I don’t throw the word lovely around lightly. I felt such a connection to her…and the author used that to further the plot along nicely. I also loved how friendship and love were at the center of everything.

The story unfolded slowly and at a perfect pace. It did a great job conveying its themes: friendship and love and loyalty and dreams. It had adventure and magic and friendship and family…and the writing was seriously great. I definitely recommend this book. I think it’s marketing for middle grade and early YA readers, but I think it’s one of those rare stories that anyone of any age would enjoy.


The Martian

Five Stars

Title: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Publisher: Broadway Books

Length: 387 Pages


Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Overall Review:

I should just start out this review by exposing the fact that I’m a hard-core space fan. And since this book takes place in space and on Mars, it’s right up my alley. And I can’t even begin to describe how much I love it.

It follows the journey of NASA astronaut Mark Watney and his mishaps on the planet Mars. It’s a survival story in all the best ways, and it’s everything you could want in an adventure/science fiction book.

One of my favorite things about this book is the main character. Watney, despite being presumed dead and left on Mars by his crewmates, has the best attitude and sense of human. He’s a problem solver, and while he does show appropriate emotion (fear, dread, hatred of Mars, frustration, excitement, etc.), he’s everything I’ve ever imagined an astronaut being. He’s resourceful and funny.

The plotline was fantastic. Weir threw conflict after conflict at Watney, and as he struggled to stay alive and science his way through his predicament, it was fun to watch him grow and evolve as a character. The book was based in science- the numbers and elements were all accurate and vetted by NASA scientists (or so I’ve read). It’s about a mission gone wrong and the reality of working really hard to fix a myriad of life-threatening issues.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in science. It’s not a sci-fi book with ray guns and aliens- it’s based on fact and is a gripping story of survival against all odds.


  • Great character development
  • Exciting plot and twists
  • Plenty of conflict for the main character to work through
  • Hilarious- even amongst the huge challenges going on in the story
  • Narration was spot on
  • Science was sound- author did his homework and it was very realistic


  • A lot of language
  • Science heavy (I love this, but I totally know not everyone does)


Eat Brains Love

Three Stars

Title: Eat Brains Love

Author: Jeff Hart

Publisher: Harper Teen

Length: 352 Pages


Jake Stephens was always an average, fly-under-the-radar guy. The kind of guy who would never catch the attention of an insanely popular girl like Amanda Blake-or a psychic teenage government agent like Cass. But one day during lunch, Jake’s whole life changed. He and Amanda suddenly locked eyes across the cafeteria, and at the exact same instant, they turned into zombies and devoured half their senior class.

Now Jake definitely has Amanda’s attention-as well as Cass’s, since she’s been sent on a top-secret mission to hunt them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own-one that will lead the three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

Eat, Brains, Love is a heartwarming and bloody blend of romance, deadpan humor, and suspense that fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies will devour. With its irresistibly dry and authentic teen voice, as well as a zombie apocalypse worthy of AMC’s The Walking Dead, this irreverent paperback original will leave readers dying for the sequel that’s coming in Summer 2014.

Overall Review:

I like zombies as much as the next person, but this book fell a little flat for me. There were some elements that I liked, and some of the characters I thought were clever, but overall the humor didn’t really do it for me and the romance was more weird than sweet. I will say I loved the snarky tone it was written in- that was the one thing that kept me going.

The combination of the young adult coming-of-age story and eating half the senior class for lunch one day didn’t really jive with me. Jake Stephens is an interesting character, and his motivations and point of view are fresh. The way he was written ALMOST lets me tolerate the weird feelings he develops for his zombie cohort.

Things really started to go downhill for me when the author introduced Cass, the psychic that works for the military in the special zombie unit. She starts to question everything when she touches Jake’s stuff, and it just is too wacky to work. Blending zombies and psychics is just too much, and the author didn’t really pull it off well. Things got confusing with the different points of view, and all the zombie-eating-people action was surprisingly gory for a book geared to teenagers. There were also a lot of vulgarity and sexual references- this is definitely not a book for the young teens…I would give it to someone 17 or older.

One of the redeeming elements of this book was the conflict. I thought the author did a great job at making sure there were enough twists and surprises and hard things for the characters to deal with.


Far From Shandesto

Four Stars

Title: Far From Shandesto

Author: Wyborn Senna

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Length: 180 Pages


“Far From Shandesto” is a sweeping tale of fantasy and magic (and horrible, horrible meals… though, I have to admit, I might give scrambled eggs and candy bars a try sometime). It begins on the outskirts of El Paso, by the Bridge of the Americas, in a town haunted by the disappearance of three local boys four years prior. Whispered rumors persist that they must have been captured and killed, that some powerful killer stalks the woods behind Shandesto High and lurks in wait for more bones and fat to add to his macabre statuary littered amongst the trees. Everyone now avoid the woods… everyone except our intrepid heroes.

The likable but flawed teens — Sofia, Jen, Rob, and Holly, the new girl — brave the woods to steal a trophy souvenir from Madame Elizondo, the fortuneteller. They soon discover, however, that the real danger lies not in Shandesto, but through the portal to Arcanaland, a mystical land on another plane and home to a dizzying array of magical realms (like Coldania, Roundtable, Mana, Animalya, and Samhain), and an even more dizzying array of characters (including Fedelm, El Colgado, a host of gnomes, the Lady de los Muertos, and the ghost of Father Andrew).

In this, the first book of the series, they find themselves reunited with the missing boys, and together they must all find a way to navigate the wondrous but dangerous realms of Arcanaland if they ever hope to find a way home.

Overall Review:

This book had me from the start, which is something I really appreciate. The characters are developed very well, the plot was refreshingly original, and it perfectly fit the YA book genre with its verbiage and actions. I liked the contrast between normal teenagers and the fantasy world they suddenly found themselves in- and how that allowed for fun interactions and natural explanations. I found the world to be built with great technique- it combines the traditional magical world with fairies and ghosts, but there are some interesting elements that make it unique to Far From Shandesto. The portal in the forest was fantastic- I love it when there are entries to other worlds that are right in the middle of the world we know today.

The story itself was fast-paced and exciting. The creatures Wyborn Senna built into the plot were so fun. The whole book had a whimsical and charming feel. It’s very adventurous, and it made me really engaged in the work the entire time. It was very entertaining, and definitely a fun read.

The lowlights for me was the lack of conflict. Often times in a world of fantasy, there are dark creatures that balance out the fun and light ones- but Far From Shandesto didn’t really balance it for me. I appreciated how light it was (I thought it was age appropriate), but a little darkness would have been a little more realistic. Everything came a little too easy to the characters, and the tasks weren’t gut wrenching or even that problematic. I would have liked to see a little more of that to round out the story.

All in all, it was a fun read. I definitely recommend it, and I look forward to the red of the books in the Arcanaland Series.


Walk the Edge

Four Stars

Title: Walk the Edge

Author: Katie McGarry

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Length: 448 Pages


Smart. Responsible. That’s seventeen-year-old Breanna’s role in her large family, and heaven forbid she put a toe out of line. Until one night of shockingly un-Breanna-like behavior puts her into a vicious cyberbully’s line of fire—and brings fellow senior Thomas “Razor” Turner into her life.

Razor lives for the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, and good girls like Breanna just don’t belong. But when he learns she’s being blackmailed over a compromising picture of the two of them—a picture that turns one unexpected and beautiful moment into ugliness—he knows it’s time to step outside the rules.

And so they make a pact: he’ll help her track down her blackmailer, and in return she’ll help him seek answers to the mystery that’s haunted him—one that not even his club brothers have been willing to discuss. But the more time they spend together, the more their feelings grow. And suddenly they’re both walking the edge of discovering who they really are, what they want, and where they’re going from here.


Overall Review:

Walk the Edge was a really interesting read, and it dealt with some really raw and real emotions. I was surprised by how emotionally charged it was. The underlying theme seemed to be sacrificing for those you love, which is a noble and important message for everyone- especially teenagers and young adults.

While I enjoyed the story, it did fall a little flat for me in some places. The motivations behind the main plot seemed a little weak, and there were some inconsistencies with the experiences of the characters and the age range they were supposed to be. A teenager in a rough and tumble biker club, who can fix his bike and carries a gun, but also saves people was a difficult thing for me to picture. Also, a teenage girl who was basically forced to raise her younger siblings and also work mysteriously had plenty of time to spend with her bad boy boyfriend- the idea seemed far-fetched.

The story in general was good. Some parts were intense and the conflict was good. It went fast enough in certain parts that the excitement, but other parts were a little slower. The writing was easy to read and the prose was sophisticated. The relationships between the characters were realistic and sweet. Razor and Breanna had a weird dynamic- like they didn’t know each other but had this random cosmic connection that made them both go against their individual families. All in all, I think it was a good read and I would recommend it.


From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Four Stars

Title: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Author: E.L. Konigsburg

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Length: 176 Pages


When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run fromsomewhere she wants to run to somewhere–to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and preferably elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother, Jamie, has money and thus can help her with the serious cash flow problem she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie, find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $250. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it? Claudia is determined to find out. This quest leads Claudia to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

Overall Review:

I think everyone has a secret dream of running away to a big city and secretly laying low away from authority. Or maybe that’s just me…but either way, it’s a fun notion. And that exact notion is why I loved From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Two kids run away to New York City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They solve all sorts of problems like how to stay hidden and how to get food, as well as solve a legitimate mystery, which is even more awesome. They skirt the cops, sleep in historical beds, bathe in famous baths, and privately enjoy priceless pieces of art. Granted, it would never fly in today’s digital world, but as a story based in the 60’s. it’s such a fun premise. It’s a great read for younger YA audiences.

The author did a good job with the characters. Claudia was the typical older sister and had all the traits to balance out her younger brother Jamie. They are such charming and enjoyable characters, and when you add them in to the eccentric Mrs. Frankweiler, it becomes an even more enjoyable ride. I definitely recommend this book- it’s such a fun read.


Lux Series, Books 1-5

Four Stars

Title: Lux Series: Obsidian, Oblivion, Onyx, Opal, Origin

Author: Jennifer Armentrout

Publisher: Entangled, Teen

Length: About 400 Pages Each


Obsidian: Starting over sucks.When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring…. until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.And then he opened his mouth.Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something…unexpected happens.The hot alien living next door marks me.You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.If I don’t kill him first, that is.

Onyx: Being connected to Daemon Black sucks…Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon’s determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I’ve sworn him off, even though he’s running more hot than cold these days. But we’ve got bigger problems.Something worse than the Arum has come to town…The Department of Defense are here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we’re linked, I’m a goner. So is he. And there’s this new boy in school who’s got a secret of his own. He knows what’s happened to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that’s possible. Against all common sense, I’m falling for Daemon. Hard.But then everything changes…I’ve seen someone who shouldn’t be alive. And I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he’s never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them―from me?No one is who they seem. And not everyone will survive the lies…

Opal: The Lux series continues with the third installment of this riveting paranormal YA series.No one is like Daemon Black.When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well… There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on.But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love.After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different… And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever.Together we’re stronger… and they know it.

Origin: After the successful but disastrous raid on Mount Weather, he’s facing the impossible. Katy is gone. Taken. Everything becomes about finding her. Taking out anyone who stands in his way? Done. Burning down the whole world to save her? Gladly. Exposing his alien race to the world? With pleasure. All Katy can do is survive.  Surrounded by enemies, the only way she can come out of this is to adapt. After all, there are sides of Daedalus that don’t seem entirely crazy, but the group’s goals are frightening and the truths they speak even more disturbing. Who are the real bad guys? Daedalus? Mankind? Or the Luxen? Together, they can face anything. But the most dangerous foe has been there all along, and when the truths are exposed and the lies come crumbling down, which side will Daemon and Katy be standing on? And will they even be together?

Opposition: Katy knows the world changed the night the Luxen came. She can’t believe Daemon stood by as his kind threatened to obliterate every last human and hybrid on Earth. But the lines between good and bad have blurred. Daemon will do anything to save those he loves, even if it means betrayal. But when it quickly becomes impossible to tell friend from foe, and the world is crumbling around them, they may lose everything to ensure the survival of their friends…and mankind.

Overall Review:

I previously read Obsidian and the subsequent books in the series, and I really enjoyed them. I’m doing a series review here since I just recently finished all of them- and I’m happy to report that each book is well written and pushes the plot along. It tugged my heartstrings in all the right way, and the characters were strong enough for me to read all of the books without getting bored. The plot had great twists, the secondary characters were developed well, and it was a really fun read. It’s a great romance series for the young adult audience.

The series had some callbacks to Twilight with Daemon being an alien hopelessly in love with Katy, a mere mortal. Plus Daemon was incredibly attractive. Like, wow. Their dynamic was enchanting, and his nickname for her (kitten…swoon) was adorable. I felt like each of them were strong, stand-alone characters that can protect themselves, but who also protect each other. It wasn’t a story about a girl who was helpless and plain being saved by a Greek god of a man. Katy is feisty and funny and has a strong sense of self, which I really appreciated. Daemon is a total bad boy…and what girl doesn’t love a bad boy?

The sci-fi aspect of these books is fresh. New approaches to the old paranormal love cliché are always welcome, and this series did not disappoint. I definitely recommend reading these for a fun, easy, and fresh take on paranormal romance and science fiction.


Song of Locke: The Dark Empyrean

Five Stars

Title: Song of Locke: The Dark Empyrean

Author: J Washburn

Publisher: Lost Boys Ink

Length: 440 Pages


Locke loves stories—they fill him with a longing he can never quite describe—but he’s not the sort of kid who actually lives adventures himself. That is, until a bloodthirsty band of marauders passes near his home and Picke, a musical sylfe, dares him to follow. In hopes of fulfilling his longing, Locke accepts the dare. This leads him on a quest where he must face snarling wolves, wield a magic blade, and risk his life to rescue a Goddess—a girl he hardly knows but who he can’t stop thinking about. In the spirit of Legend of Zelda and Peter Pan, SONG OF LOCKE portrays a detailed fantasy world, somewhat grittier than its forebears and drenched in human emotion. The tale has sword fights, witty banter, crushes, and even some subtle philosophy smuggled in. It’s an epic for everyone who loves good stories—for anyone who has longed for something that seemed forever out of reach. SONG OF LOCKE is also an artisan book—written, illustrated, and typeset by the author, a masterpiece handcrafted from beginning to end. The first 50k-word draft was written for NaNoWriMo in 2013. In November 2014, a crowd of Kickstarter backers provided the initial funding for publication (see kickstarter.jwashburn.com). It was published 4 August 2015.

Overall Review:

A friend of mine from college wrote Song of Locke, and I had the opportunity to help in the editing process. It was such a pleasure to read this book- not only is it fun, but being able to see close up some of the process of writing was a really awesome thing for me.

Song of Locke is a fan fiction work that throws back to the Legend of Zelda. I’m not a hardcore Zelda fan, but I definitely recognized some of the references and deeply enjoyed this book.

Song of Locke is a fantasy- and Washburn does a fantastic job of setting up the world where the story takes place. The characters were well-developed and complex- with clear moral dilemmas happening as the story progresses. I love it when characters have internal moral battles- and it was nice to see growth as the book went on.

The writing was spot on. Nothing dull- and it was full of showing instead of telling, which is unfortunately common in a lot of the books hitting the market today. He defines elements of his world piece by piece, so as a reader you feel like you’re organically getting to know the environment instead of getting a ton of information thrown at you.

What Washburn did with the main character Locke was really cool- it was more a duo than a single person. Every Elfe has a personal fairy-type creature, and Locke’s is one named Picke. Each part of the whole are definitely separate and distinctive, but they create a fantastic single character full of conflict, flaws, and many redeeming qualities.

I would have liked to see a little more character development on the villain and potentially some of the other side characters. That definitely doesn’t take away from what is otherwise an awesome book.

The book had a great plot with unexpected twists to keep things interesting. The themes were relatable, the foremost one that I took away was the main character trying to establish who he was and what moral beliefs he would abide by. It’s a fun read full of mystery and questions and awesome characters. I definitely recommend it!


Perfect Lies

Three Stars

Title: Perfect Lies

Author: Kiersten White

Publisher: Harper Teen

Length: 256 Pages


The sisters have been manipulated and controlled by the Keane Foundation for years, trapped in a never ending battle for survival. Now they have found allies who can help them truly escape. After faking her own death, Annie has joined a group that is plotting to destroy the Foundation. And Fia is working with James Keane to bring his father down from the inside.

But Annie’s visions of the future can’t show her who to trust in the present. And though James is Fia’s first love, Fia knows he’s hiding something. The sisters can rely only on each other – but that may not be enough to save them.

Overall Review:

I didn’t love Mind Games, which was the first book in this two-book combo, so I’m not surprised Perfect Lies didn’t quite do it for me, either. I found this book very…odd. I can’t really describe it any other way. It lacked purpose for me, and the writing felt hurried and sloppy. The thing that bothered me the most was the different timing of Annie and Fia’s points of view. It was weird and completely confusing.

The plot, as with the first one, was exciting. People were hunted and running and even dying- so there was plenty going on to keep me reading. The problem I had with all of the action, however, was that it just didn’t tie in to the world created for the two sisters.

The characters STILL didn’t grow in book two of this series, which was my main complaint. They start doing different things, but none of it really tied to meaningful change. It’s almost as if the author tried a little too hard. The characters became unstable and annoying- and I get what she meant to do with the repititions that Fia kept doing, but it was just too much. The double Points of View continued in this last installment, but they weren’t any better than the first two. Both characters came across as very whiny, as well, which is very disappointing.

The thing that fell the most flat was the relationship between the sisters. One is sheltered and one is essentially psychotic- and the way they’re written doesn’t lend to a healthy understanding of each other. I did like this one better than the first, and although still not the best, I found it more compelling and sound than the first.