Monday, February 12, 2018

Review: Just Friends by Dyan Sheldon

Book: Just Friends
Author: Dyan Sheldon
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: Feb 13, 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 288
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | 
Book Depository | Goodreads |


Can chasing the wrong girl lead down the right path? Witty as ever, best-selling author Dyan Sheldon maps the agonizing distance between "like" and "love."

Josh has never really thought twice about girls before. He's usually too busy watching old movies with his friends Sal and Carver, petitioning for more vegetarian options in the school cafeteria, or flailing in yoga class with his best friend Ramona. But when new girl Jena Capistrano walks into school, Josh loses his heart faster than he's ever lost his balance on a double downward dog. Not that he has any real aspirations, of course: he knows Jena is completely out of his league. And then, against all odds -- they become friends. The closer they get, the more infatuated Josh becomes, and the more he wonders if just maybeJena might like him back. There's only one way to find out. But it's not exactly easy to put your heart on the line.


DYAN SHELDON is the author of many novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, which was made into a major motion picture. Her other books include The Crazy Things Girls Do For Love, One or Two Things I Learned About Love, and The Truth About My Success. Dyan Sheldon was born in Brooklyn, New York, and now lives in North London.


Just Friends is a realistic, coming-of-age story with a friend-zoned, hopeful romance driven plot. I liked the story, but it was a bit predictable. The book exudes major patience on the part of Josh, who has a crush on the new girl Jena, the typical gorgeous and popular high school student. He quickly becomes Jena's friend, which makes him happy to spend time with her, but does Jena see Josh as more than a friend? Or is Josh just a friend of convenience, rushing to Jena's aid whenever she needs him. This is what Josh has to figure out throughout the novel. He has to try to read her closely to figure this out, but at the same time, liking and dating girls is all very new to him, so he is unsure of how to do this. This all becomes a work in progress and a gradual learning process for him.

Josh also has to decide if he can eventually develop enough courage to finally let Jena know how he feels, but timing is key. Of course, there are some plot complications throw his way in this story, and figuring out how to navigate them all is what makes the story interesting. If Josh waits too long he might lose his chance, but if he does go for it, will he be rejected by Jena? Fear of rejection is definitely prominent in this book, but will Josh and the other characters muster enough courage to go after what they want and will they succeed? You'll have to read the book to find out. 

The experiences of the characters will definitely shape them and they will grow from them. They will learn some dating lessons along the way in the complicated teeter totter world of high school relationships and discover that there is a fine line between being friends and being more than friends. 

The strong friendships between Josh and his close friends Ramona, Sal, and Carver are also highlighted in the book. You get to see the true meaning of friendship and being there for one another, especially in times of much needed support. And you get to see the effects of those close bonds and the complications it brings when hormones start raging and crushes start developing.

The best part of the novel for me was the humor! Yes Josh is a likeable, charming guy, but what I liked most about him was that he was so funny! I can't begin to remember how many times I laughed out loud and smiled. So the book was definitely entertaining!

Even though the story was predictable, I did enjoy reading the book. I thought it was good, but the story reached its plateau early on and mainly stayed there for the majority of the story, with not a lot of plot movement. The ending was handled well and very realistic. I identified with some of the characters and I also felt empathy towards some of them at times. 


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Review: It Should Have Been You by Lynn Slaughter

Book: It Should Have Been You
Author: Lynn Slaughter
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: Jan 30, 2018
Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kindle ebook |
Book Depository | IndieBound | Books-a-Million |


A cyberstalked high-school advice columnist takes matters into her own hands to discover the secrets behind her twin sister's murder in this intense and compelling mystery thriller.
Seventeen-year-old Clara Seibert ghostwrites an advice column for her school’s newspaper. She’s funny, feisty, and cares deeply about making a difference in people’s lives, but her own personal problems threaten to overwhelm her. Five months ago, her twin, Moura, was murdered. 

Soon threatening emails start to arrive at her staff inbox. Convinced that her email stalker blames Clara for her sister’s death and is out for revenge, she decides to undertake her own investigation. Can she solve the murder in time to save herself? 

This suspenseful page-turner about a complicated sibling relationship is perfect for fans of We Were Liars, Fangirl, I'll Give You the Sun, and Vanishing Girls. Secrets, lies, brilliantly crafted twists and turns, and a dual mystery will keep readers in suspense until the very last page. 

Although primarily a whodunit, this novel also focuses on important social themes high-school teens face. Lynn blends a page-turning mystery thriller with sweet romance and demonstrates the very real effects of grief, rivalry, sexuality, dating violence, and bullying on today's youth. Clara is believable, relatable, smart, snarky, brave, and conscientious. Her strong teen voice will resonate with a wide audience, and she is a perfect role model for teens who are dealing with similar social issues.


LYNN SLAUGHTER has a passion for dance and music - from Frank Sinatra to Chopin - and her first book, While I Danced, was a finalist in the 2015 EPIC competition in the Young Readers category. Before earning her MFA from Seton Hill University, she spend five seasons as a principal dancer with Detroit's Harbinger Dance Company. She and her husband live in Louisville, Kentucky. 



It Should Have Been You was such an intense, gripping, and suspenseful thriller/mystery. It was extremely well done, eliciting tension and suspense at just the right times, as well as producing hair-raising, anxious moments where you just hold your breath. The novel opens with a big punch, as Clara's twin sister Moura is murdered right away. Then the story starts five months later and follows Clara's life afterwards and shows what she deals with in high school due to this horrible incident, including bullying, blame, and threats. 

One of my favorite parts of the book was reading Clara's advice column in her school newspaper that she ghostwrites, which was her way of trying to cope with her sister's murder, by helping others. I also loved the suspense of when she would receive the next threatening email in her school newspaper inbox about the fact that it should have been Clara that was murdered, and seemingly accusing her of being guilty of murdering her twin sister Moura, and the most haunting of all - deadly payback. Who is threatening Clara? In a dark and twisted way, these emails were engrossing to read. Clara remains brave and stoic at first, but then realizes the gravity of things. She decides to do her own investigation into her sister's murder, and this is where things get really complicated, yet alluring. The thorough detective work done by Clara was very fascinating to read about, leading to some more information regarding the case, while at the same time making you think, is Clara doing this investigation on purpose to throw everyone off of her trail of guilt? 

Clara and her twin were not super close siblings during the time of Moura's murder so could she have done it? The author smartly utilizes the strong family blood bond of being a twin to complicate your suspicions, yet satisfyingly makes them more sinister. The closer the family relation, the deeper the betrayal. You think, can a twin really be so evil as to kill her own twin sister if she is present at home along with her sister during the time frame of the murder? The window of opportunity is there and you have to make a judgement based on what is revealed to you in the book. You will read Clara's demeanor, which is cold and indifferent towards her twin sister at times and think, does this prove she had a motive to kill her sister? Clara's questionable demeanor makes you raise an eyebrow at her. But the book makes you raise an eyebrow at many others as well and leads you down a path of many possibilities. The author does a good job of confusing and misleading you, and even if you think you have it all figured out, you are thrown for a loop again in this wild ride of a thriller. So it is very well done. 

The author does an amazing and meticulous job placing pertinent clues and hints throughout the book, which are gradually revealed, as well as many red herrings, in order to purposely cast a wide net of suspicion on the many characters in the book that are investigated. Your detective skills need to be on point and you will definitely need your sharp thinking caps on to solve this mystery. 

And I loved the fact that this novel had a surprise dual mystery. What a treat! Talk about going out with a massive bang at the end! It Should Have Been You was such a strong, captivating, edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of climactic intrigue, chilling moments where you were hanging in suspense, and nerve-wracking tension until the very end. It was an incredibly clever mystery, that was well planned, expertly executed, and incredibly fulfilling. It has everything you'd want in a top thriller - suspense, creativity, intrigue, deception, motive, great storyline, and a deeply satisfying, grandiose ending. I am a huge fan of thrillers and mysteries, and this one was excellent from beginning to end, with non-stop action. I did not want it to end. This book definitely plays like a movie, it was that absorbing. It hits every key thing to be a successful thriller/mystery and more, since it also has some romance sprinkled in, and tackles some tough issues that twins as well as other teens face in high school. It makes students realize that they are not alone and can always ask for help in sticky situations. And as a twin, I appreciated this story that much more, since I can relate to some of the issues Clara and Moura faced as twins. Being a twin is not always easy, being compared all of the time. The pacing of the novel was perfect and the plot flowed so well, an incredible feat considering all of the intricacies that were involved in the story. This refreshing and bold story will take you on an adrenaline-filled ride. I highly recommend this book to everyone! And even if you aren't a fan of thrillers/mysteries, you will definitely become one after reading this book! I am looking forward to what this author has in store for us next. Once again, Page Street is definitely on the hot radar for sizzling YA books. I'm hooked and loving this YA imprint!


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: Keeper by Kim Chance

Happy Book Birthday to Keeper and Kim Chance! This book comes out TODAY! What a gorgeous cover!

Book: Keeper
Author: Kim Chance
Publisher: Flux Books/North Star Editions
Publication Date: Jan 30, 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Pages: 408
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
Book Depository | IndieBound | Books-a-Million |

About The Book: 

When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic.

With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

About The Author:

KIM CHANCE is the YA Author of KEEPER (Flux Books: January, 30th, 2018). Represented by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway at LKG Agency. YouTuber. Teacher. Mommy of 3. Whovian. Gryffindor. Disney Princess. Creator of #Chance2Connect.

 Kim Chance is a high school English teacher and Alabama native who currently resides in Michigan with her husband and three children. Kim is also a YouTuber who has a passion for helping other writers. She posts weekly writing videos on her channel: When Kim is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and two crazy dogs, binge-watching shows on Netflix, fangirling over books,  and making death-by-cheese casseroles.



My Review: 

Keeper was an interesting and entertaining story with an abundance of comic book references and supernatural beings, with the main heroine Lainey being a witch, particularly a Keeper. In the beginning of the story, Lainey has an encounter with a 200-year-old witch called Josephine, whose parallel storyline from the past is gradually revealed to Lainey through visions. While Lainey's story is told in a first-person POV, most of Josephine's past is told in a third-person POV in her own chapters, until the two storylines eventually blend together. Lainey finds out that Josephine is related to her dead mother, and thus to her, through a special item that is revealed in the story. She discovers that she, like her ancestors, is a Keeper, a witch who has the power to unlock a powerful spell book called the Grimoire, and thus tries to protect it. There is an important reason why Josephine keeps popping up in Lainey's life, and it's because Lainey is now of age to try to steal back the Grimoire from the villain in the story, the Master, who wants to use the spell book for his own dark purposes.

Lainey's best friend is Maggie and she is definitely one of my favorite characters in the story. She has a fun vibe to her, is full of spunk, and is so animated it feels contagious! She loves comic books and tries to help Lainey out any way she can. Lainey also has a crush on a street fighter named Ty, but the romance in this novel doesn't play a huge part, as the supernatural aspect takes precedence in the story. So I wish there was a bit more romance. Lainey lives with her uncle Gareth and his girlfriend Serena, who is a psychic. They play a more prominent role towards the end of the book. Josephine was also another character I adored. I really loved reading about Josephine and her past, since it was so interesting to unravel the history behind the story. The historical aspect to Keeper was really well done and it really tied everything together.

The main storyline was also intriguing. Unlike some fantasy stories that are set in imaginary lands, this one is set in modern day Georgia. This made the story feel relatable. I liked how the heroine showed a lot of humanistic qualities and wasn't the ready-to-go witch, with already polished powers. Lainey develops identity issues and has trouble adjusting to now having superpowers as a witch, which she has no idea how to use. So there is definitely a learning curve factor. This made the story interesting, because you don't know how the ending will turn out. Will she defeat the Master or not? Will she steal the Grimoire back or not? All while having to deal with additional outside factors that try to falter her plan. It definitely made me want to root for Lainey, as she struggles with self doubt for the daunting task, while also showing courage.

While the beginning half of the story runs a bit slow to get to the part where Lainey discovers she is a witch, it picks up in the second half with a lot more suspense and action, which I loved. There is also usage of magic in the story, but I wish there was a lot more of it. But this is understandable and alleviated by the fact that there will be a sequel, which will most likely contain more magic at the heart of the story, as Lainey begins to better understand how to use it. There is also a twist at the end that will surprise you. So the ending was interesting.

Overall, Keeper is an enjoyable fantasy debut by Kim Chance with something for everyone, as it covers a variety of supernatural beings, not just witches. It is also heavy on the comic book culture, which will appeal to those people who love it. The history of the ancestry line of Keepers and the Grimoire was a fascinating part of the storyline. Also, magic is always fun to read about!

Set as a duology, we are in for an action-packed sequel, full of magic, as Lainey's powers will only begin to amaze us all as she masters them! She will definitely be a force to be reckoned with as the stakes will be greater and I can't wait to see how the story unfolds!

My Rating: 4 STARS

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Review: Tokoyo, The Samurai's Daughter by Faith L. Justice & Illustrated by Kayla Gilliam

Book: Tokoyo, The Samurai's Daughter
Author: Faith L. Justice
Illustrator: Kayla Gilliam
Publisher: Raggedy Moon Books
Publication Date: May 28, 2017
Genre: MG Fantasy; Historical Fiction; Illustrated Chapter Book
Format: Paperback
Pages: 122
Source: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | TheBookDepository | Audible |RaggedyMoonBooks 

About The Book: 

An adventurous girl!

Most noble-born girls of Tokoyo’s age learn to sing, paint, and write poetry.

Not Tokoyo.

She’s the daughter of a samurai in fourteenth century Japan, Tokoyo’s father trains her in the martial arts. When he is away, she escapes to the sea where she works with the Ama—a society of women and girls who dive in the deep waters for food and treasure. But disaster strikes her family. Can Tokoyo save her father using the lessons she learned and the skills she mastered to overcome corrupt officials, her own doubts, and a nasty sea demon?

Book Preview:

Tokoyo Sample Chapters 1-5
Take some time to look through the sample of chapters and illustrations in the book! If you like what you read, feel free to look at the purchase links above!

About The Author:

FAITH L. JUSTICE got her degrees in Education from Ohio State University. Kiddie Lit was her favorite course because she got to re-read all her favorite childhood stories. She currently writes award-winning fiction in Brooklyn, New York. For fun, she likes to dig in the dirt - her garden and various archaeologicial sites. Sample her work, check out her blog or ask Faith a question at her WEBSITE.

Connect with Faith L. Justice!
Email | Website/Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook |

About The Illustrator:

KAYLA GILLIAM is an independent cartoonist living in the dense suburban forests of North Carolina. When she is not juggling her five dogs (Oreo, Domino, Max, Chewy, and Baby) she enjoys researching Japanese culture.

My Review: 

You are immersed in a sea of Japanese culture in the fourteenth century, through a story inspired by the Japanese folktale called "The Tale Of The Oki Islands." Tokoyo, The Samurai's Daughter goes into more depth than the original folktale by really capturing the essence of the Ama, Japanese pearl divers who are usually women, by incorporating them into the story in a way that makes them more prominent. Even the traditional Japanese clothing worn by the Ama is showcased, such as the fundoshi, a loincloth, and a tenugui, a blessed bandana. Tokoyo learns the skillful yet difficult art of diving for pearls and food with the Ama, and thus the ability to hold her breath for a prolonged period of time, which she ultimately utililizes later in the story for a different purpose. 

Tokoyo isn't the typical dainty, young Japanese girl who learns to paint and write poetry. She is the daughter of a noble samurai and is trained in martial arts. She is fierce. She is brave. She is extremely capable as a female. So when her father, samurai Oribe Shima, is banished to the Oki islands for a suspected curse against the Regent Hojo Takatoki, Tokoyo eventually goes on an incredibly dangerous adventure in search of her father, even encountering a sea demon, to try to save him and his honor. Her skills as a samurai's daughter and as an Ama prepare her for her journey. I really adored this book! The whole story was fascinating and such a delight to read. And I was very pleased with the ending. 

It was nice to see such a strong female lead with a strong backbone, especially in fourteenth century Japan. Even in the face of hardships, Tokoyo, as a young girl, does not lose hope, and has such immense courage and fearlessness, that even a samurai would be impressed by and proud of. I also loved that in this story, a daughter is treated no differently than a son would be in terms of honor and being taught the ways of the samurai and martial arts. There is a strong sense of prestige to be a samurai and for one's kin/descendants. In an Asian culture where a son is highly prized, this book takes a refreshingly liberal take, by a samurai holding his daughter in the same esteem as he would a son. This was very endearing and even though the book displayed a moment where this was deemed unacceptable by a Japanese guard, Tokoyo and her father overlooked this. Tokoyo's samurai father was very encouraging and loving to her. I also liked how Tokoyo had so much freedom during this time period to do something for herself, in order to seek out her definition of happiness. For Tokoyo, that was diving for pearls among the Ama. 

In terms of the nature of the Japanese culture, I felt that Faith L. Justice did a wonderful job displaying the utmost respect that Japanese people have towards their elders, as shown in the well-mannered dialogue. Also, meditation is practiced in the story, which is also a well-known technique in Japan. In addition, the samurai's prominence and noble nature in fourteenth century Japan, as well as the honorable duties of the Ama were well demonstrated. Japanese folktales are also a fascinating part of Japanese culture and I loved how this story was inspired by one. I also liked that a cultural notes page was added to the back of the book, which provided definitions to the Japanese terms that were mentioned in the book.

The beautiful black-and-white illustrations in the book really bring the story to life and are brilliantly done. They are not only aesthetically pleasing, showing fine craftsmanship and artistic talent, but also grasp intense emotion. The message they evoke is powerful and meaningful. Kayla Gilliam did a marvelous job! 

Faith L. Justice created an intriguing tale that was even better than the original Japanese folktale it was inspired by. It was outstanding! You are swept away not only by the beautiful storytelling, but also the wonderful illustrations. Tokoyo, The Samurai's Daughter is a remarkable illustrated middle-grade book that is incredibly inspiring and touching. I highly recommend reading it!

My Rating: 5 STARS

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

ARC Review: Beneath The Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Happy Book Birthday to Beneath The Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer, which releases today, January 9, 2018! Check out the gorgeous cover! It's truly spectacular!

Book: Beneath The Haunting Sea
Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer
Publisher: Page Street 
Publication Date: Jan 9, 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy/Mythology
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 400
Source: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase Links: AmazonBarnes & Noble, or Indiebound

About The Book:

Sixteen-year-old Talia was born to a life of certainty and luxury, destined to become Empress of half the world. But when an ambitious rival seizes power, she and her mother are banished to a nowhere province on the far edge of the Northern Sea.

It is here, in the drafty halls of the Ruen-Dahr, that Talia discovers family secrets, a melancholy boy with a troubling vision of her future, and a relic that holds the power of an ancient Star. On these shores, the eerie melody of the sea is stronger than ever, revealing long-forgotten tales of the Goddess Rahn. The more dark truths that Talia unravels about the gods’ history—and her own—the more the waves call to her, and it may be her destiny to answer.

About The Author:

Joanna Ruth Meyer wrote her very first story at the age of seven—it starred four female "mystery-solvers" and a villain in a gorilla suit, and remains unfinished to this day.

Since then, she’s grown up (reluctantly), earned a bachelor of music in piano performance, taught approximately one billion piano lessons, and written eight novels, many of them during National Novel Writing Month, an online writing challenge held every November. Beneath the Haunting Sea was first drafted during NaNoWriMo 2006.

Joanna hails from Mesa, Arizona, where she lives with her dear husband and son, a rascally feline, and an enormous grand piano named Prince Imrahil. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to convince her students that Bach is actually awesome, or plotting her escape from the desert. She loves good music, thick books, loose-leaf tea, rainstorms, and staring out of windows. One day, she aspires to own an old Victorian house with creaky wooden floors and a tower (for writing in, of course!).

Connect with Joanna Ruth Meyer on social media! 
Twitter: @gamwyn

My Review:

Joanna Ruth Meyer is a 2018 YA debut author who has blown me away by her book, Beneath The Haunting Sea, which may very well be the fantasy debut book of the year, it was that PHENOMENAL!! Beneath The Haunting Sea was superb, exquisite, and complete perfection! This novel marks the launch of the YA division at Page Street Publishing and it was exemplary! If this is any indication of the level of YA books that Page Street is going to keep publishing, then it sets the bar very high and is definitely a great start to much success in the future. 

The caliber of Meyer's writing is extraordinary and she sweeps you away with prose that is so beautiful and sophisticated, that you are just in awe. Not only do the words entrance you like a sweet symphony, but the storytelling does as well, as it is breathtaking, utterly mesmerizing, and masterfully done. This is storytelling at its finest. I am tremendously moved by Meyer's work, a rare gem that only comes by every once in a while. 

Extremely impressive for a YA debut author, Meyer creates an extraordinary fantasy world that seamlessly weaves fascinating tales of mythology that include the Gods, the immortal Tree, the Star, and Rahn and the Hall, among others, into the incredible storytelling of Talia's journey to the Ruen-Dahr after being banished with her mother, her adventures there, and beyond into the sea. It is at the Ruen-Dahr that Talia finds her purpose, after being robbed of her destined status as Empress of Enduena by Eda. Her time here is filled with new discoveries that are relevant, as well as honest reflections. She must decide whether to accept fate or control her destiny, all while the sea is calling to her. Meyer brings the sea to life in a magical way with remarkable sea creatures and divine beings, such as the Billow Maidens, or Waves, who sing alluring, melodious music. It is said that the seductive and enchanting songs of the sea call to its listeners and beguile sailors into its depths, and those who cannot resist its charm. Music pertinently immerses itself into the plot in other ways as well, and provides a solid theme to bind the story together, in addition to the tales of mythology. 

Talia is a dauntless, resourceful, and compelling heroine full of willpower and the supporting characters are just as captivating. The character names are noteworthy as well, as they are unique and striking. The romantic elements of the story range from fervid affection to subtle, underlying love. 

The story ends beautifully and leaves enough freedom to continue the adventures among the other lands of the Enduenan Empire. I really hope we get the honor of a sequel or companion novel to Beneath The Haunting Sea, because it was beyond magnificent and a pure delight to read! One of the most stunning YA novels I have ever read, let alone the fact that it is a YA debut. That just makes it that much more special. This is a MUST read for all, and is definitely my new favorite YA debut. So BRAVO to Meyers! You receive a standing ovation from Bookish Delights!

My Rating: 5+ Stars