book review YA fiction

Book Review: I Hope You Get This Message

It’s the end of the world as we know it- at least, that’s what government officials are telling people. Aliens created Earth as an experiment- one that the people of Earth have failed. They have one week before the aliens decide to keep Earth or destroy it forever.

The three teenage main characters all set out to complete their lives with whatever is most important to them. This is a heavy book in many ways, but so good. It’s worth the emotional upheaval that you pretty much can’t avoid with this one.

Righting your wrongs in one week would be hard for anyone, but these kids have already seen their share of bad times.

Despite the Welcome to Night Vale vibes, the heaviness of this story does not stop. There is hope, but mostly I felt sad for these teens. (and the rest of humanity)
Here is my main takeaway, and it may or may not be a lesson the author was trying to place.

We, humans, want to believe. We want to think things are okay, even in the face of genuine evidence that they are not okay. In this scenario, there was no doubt that this was real and happening.

People still did everything they could to prove it wrong. Hope is necessary in dark times, but since this story is about teens and is from their POV, the characters made a ton of choices based on their feelings.

I feel like it is a great book to read in a group and discuss. There is a lot to dig into with this one, and I can’t wait to see what Ms. Rishi comes up with next.

Editing to add: Now that I have the book in my hands, it is even more amazing. I removed the dust jacket and found this:

Translated: Final Judgement This Way Comes

Book Review: Now Entering Addamsville

Who’s ready for some ghost hunting Halloween vibes?

From the publisher:

When someone burns down the home of the school janitor and he dies in the blaze, everyone in Addamsville, Indiana, points a finger at Zora. Never mind that Zora has been on the straight and narrow since her father was thrown in jail. With everyone looking for evidence against her, her only choice is to uncover the identity of the real killer. There’s one big problem—Zora has no leads. No one does. Addamsville has a history of tragedy, and thirty years ago a similar string of fires left several townspeople dead. The arsonist was never caught.

Now, Zora must team up with her cousin Artemis—an annoying self-proclaimed Addamsville historian—to clear her name. But with a popular ghost-hunting television show riling up the townspeople, almost no support from her family and friends, and rumors spinning out of control, things aren’t looking good. Zora will have to read between the lines of Addamsville’s ghost stories before she becomes one herself.

I read this one in a single sitting. I found the small town Indiana setting charming and realistic. The characters are all full of snark and the story simply never lagged. It has more than a little overlap with both Stranger Things and Riverdale. I don’t watch Supernatural but, I know enough of the plot to say that it compares to that too.

If you are looking for scary “light” this one’s for you. Paranormal yes, horror, no.

October 1, 2019

book review YA fiction

Book Review: Crier’s War

Ok, usually I’m not one for a YA fantasy. I can honestly say that this book, although for sure a fantasy, is also a well-done (gay!) romance. The Sci-Fi elements are like the cherry on top for me.

What else did I love? Political Intrigue and the fact that in this world, you are either mortal or made.

It all began when human Queen Thea – who cannot bear children – commissions her people to build her a child. One who can replicate every aspect of human life. In this world, individuals are Made, with Four Pillars: Reason, Calculation, Organics, and Intellect.

Crier (automade) and Ayla (human) make a great couple. The dual point of view is so intriguing; the reader gets a little piece of the puzzle from one perspective or the other a little bit at a time leading up to a cliffhanger ending.

book review YA Non fiction

Book Review: The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce

Finally, a book for all the teens of a specific size out there. Big ones. An anthology, but more importantly a primer of sorts of how to navigate this fat-phobic world. For too long life as an overweight teen was very don’t ask, don’t tell:

  • Don’t talk about finding stylish clothes, because it’s your fault you aren’t thinner.
  • Don’t eat sweets in front of anyone, because that’s how you gain weight.
  • Don’t accept the body you have. Being thin is the only good size.

Fat or thin, everyone deserves to feel comfortable in the body they own. These essays go a long way towards normalizing what actually already is normal. We have a weird twisted society sometimes. Can you imagine if suddenly it was shameful to have blonde hair? You’d be at the Doctor for a sore throat, and they’d wonder aloud, What are you doing to prevent your hair from getting lighter? When really you just want some antibiotics. This anthology is essential reading for fat teens and the people who love them just the way they are.

My favorite essays included are:

“For the Love of Ursula’s Revenge Body” by Julie Murphy

“Chubby City Indian” by Jana Schmeiding

“How To Be the Star of Your Own Fat Rom-Com” by Lily Anderson

“Elephant, Hippo, and Other Nicknames I Love” by Jes Baker

“Losing My Religion” by Jess Walton

All that said, I’m not sure if I’d hand this book to the lower end of the YA crowd. In many ways, it seems more like Adult non-fiction, although even young teens already know all of what is included with being fat. Maybe I’m just being a protective helicopter Mom, but with my own 14-year-old, I’m marking only specific essays for him to read. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)

I have one copy to give away!
Find my review on Twitter and re-tweet it.
I’ll draw a winner on Sunday, September 29, 2019.

book review MG fiction

ARC Review: The Dark Lord Clementine

You’ll have to wait until October 1, 2019 to get your hand on this one. Go ahead and feel free to pre-order it now.

I knew I’d enjoy this book for 9-13 year old kids from this line on page 2:

Clementine Morcerous knew that if the Dark Lord Elithor had three gifts in this world, they were:

The invention and implementation of magical Dastardly Deeds.


Not Talking About Anything

I was hooked from that point on. It’s a little bit like a Neil Gaiman book mixed with well, a female dark lord written for middle grade readers and me. I loved the opposite theming where Clementine has to grapple with feeling that although she’s always told that she needs to be as evil as possible, that doesn’t seem like the right path for her.

I know lots of kids who will love Clementine! She is dark (of course, as an evil warlord) but also caring. She cares about keeping her Dad in the evil Lord business and does it her own way after learning to ask for help from her new friends.

book review MG fiction

ARC Review: Maybe He Just Likes You (MG)

I wish this book weren’t so “out of the ordinary.” If all middle-grade authors handled the complicated business of growing up with the skill that Barbara Dee does, we’d all be better off. It’s not an “another book about bullying” as the issues of consent, and sexual harassment is much bigger and more complex. I wish there were more books for this age group that could capture and openly discusses all the feelings involved with being a middle school student. Not only does it have a positive outcome, but it models what confronting your harasser might look and feel like. As readers see Mila struggle and emerge stronger and happier, they might have the courage to follow in her footsteps.

From the publisher:

For seventh grader Mila, it starts with an unwanted hug on the school blacktop.

The next day, it’s another hug. A smirk. Comments. It all feels…weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature, overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?

But it keeps happening, despite Mila’s protests. On the bus, in the halls. Even during band practice-the one time Mila could always escape to her “blue-sky” feeling. It seems like the boys are EVERYWHERE. And it doesn’t feel like flirting–so what is it?

Mila starts to gain confidence when she enrolls in karate class. But her friends still don’t understand why Mila is making such a big deal about the boys’ attention. When Mila is finally pushed too far, she realizes she can’t battle this on her own–and finds help in some unexpected places.

I’m an unabashed Barbara Dee fan. I also enjoyed her previous books: Star-Crossed and Halfway Normal. This book will be available on October 1, 2019

book review nonfiction

Book Review: Checkmate Like a Grand Master

I’m hoping to get Self-Published Books up here at least once a week. They may not have easily clickable purchase buttons, but I promise to search out some titles that you may never find on your own.

If you or your kids are chess players this book is like nothing else I’ve seen. Erik has taken the winning moves for over a thousand historic chess games recorded from 1938-2005 and recorded them within the pages of this book.

Part puzzle book, part logic puzzle and all chess history, you can play with a partner or use a chess clock and beat your own time.

Erik has thoughtfully included an answer key in the back and all the chess board layouts are easy to decipher. They also include the details about the game so if you have a favorite player you can look up all their games.

It’s pretty cool.

To purchase this book contact the author at:


book review fiction

Book Review: The Merchant of Menace: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure

I don’t get to write reviews for self published books as often as I would like to. Often times I’ll accept a review copy and encounter a book that isn’t edited or is sloppy in some way. The Merchant of Menace does not fall into that category. Richard Ryan has channeled his inner Conan Doyle and produced a Sherlock Holmes mystery worthy of the man himself.

When I was reading this book I “heard” Holmes voice as  Hugh Bonneville playing the Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey. Not Benedict Cumberbatch or Robery Downey Jr.

Sherlock and Holmes, for that matter, are dignified grown up men in this story which does not read like the fan fiction that I dreaded. “The Merchant,” is a nickname for the thief in question and he too is clever. It makes for an interesting hunt as Sherlock narrows down the similarities between crimes. The Merchant will steal anything for the right price. Overall, I enjoyed this book and will be checking out the other volumes in this series.

Here’s the synopsis if you still aren’t sure:

Reluctantly, Sherlock Holmes agrees to assist Inspector Lestrade who is being hounded by an obnoxious nobleman whose jewel-encrusted dagger has gone missing. However, what Holmes initially believes to be a simple theft turns out instead to be his first encounter with a master criminal, who is as ruthless as he is brilliant, and whom Watson dubs “The Merchant of Menace.”
Soon Holmes finds himself matching wits with a man who will steal anything – if the price is right. Moreover, this thief will go to any lengths, including blackmail and murder, to achieve his desired goal.
As Holmes comes to understand his adversary, he also begins to realize he can only react to the Merchant because he has no idea where this criminal mastermind will strike next. All Holmes knows for certain is the Merchant seems to specialize in priceless, one-of-a-kind articles. Will that be enough information for the Great Detective to outwit his foe?
From the British Museum to the Louvre to Blenheim Palace, Holmes finds himself in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. Set against the backdrop of early Edwardian England, the Great Detective and his Boswell encounter an array of luminaries from the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough to a young Winston Churchill.
For fans of Conan Doyle’s immortal detective, the game is always afoot. However, this time around Holmes must try to bring to justice a villain who might well be the next Napoleon of Crime.

book review fiction

Book Review: The Testaments

I feel more than the average amount of self-imposed pressure to capture this novel in enough detail to entice you to give it a read. This book is probably one of the most anticipated sequels in recent years. In 1985, I was a high school sophomore, and this book wasn’t yet assigned reading in our English class, but I remember checking it out from the library as I was a fresh entrant into the adult side of our small town library branch.
I bought my copy of The Testaments, last Tuesday, on release day and had it sent straight to my Kindle. I started it in spurts until Friday morning, then I read for my two-hour flight and then again on my flight home Sunday night. Since then, I caught up with homeschooling, my real job, and have not been able to get the new images of Gilead out of my thoughts. I try not to read any other reviews until after I’ve written mine, but I did happen a couple of snippets where readers complain this book isn’t needed, that Ms. Atwood should have left well enough alone.
I disagree. As a storyteller, sometimes the characters you write aren’t done telling their story. She certainly has had enough time to consider this book and decided that a part two/conclusion was needed. I’m sure that the Hulu TV adaptation prodded her along. I know that if it were my story, I would want to get the ending out there. If the producers ignore it, so be it, but she knows she tried.
Anyhow, should you read this story? Me: Shrugs I say yes. I gave it all the stars on Goodreads. I loved the original book, I love the TV adaptation, I’ve watched a ton of interviews with Ms. Atwood, and I like her too. These books are not straight science fiction or dystopian. She takes facts of our society and then bumps it up a notch. It’s all plausible which makes it so much of a page-turner.
The Testaments are told in a rotating narrative by chapter. Aunt Lydia tells her story, you get a good sense of how Gilead has changed since that van door closed on Offred and you even get more than a bit on Baby Nichole who by now is almost grown. You see life in Canada and Gilead in the I’m guessing 15 or 16 years that have elapsed.
I feel like fans get the full closure this time and at eighty years old Ms. Atwood still knows how teenage girls fell and act. I see that it is shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize, so I’m not the only one who enjoyed it.

book review romance

Book Review: Met Her Match (Summerhill #2)

Now I’ll need to get Summerhill #1 from the library, because this book was so good.

I’m no fan of small towns. So at first, I was all grumbling on behalf of the main character just because of the quirks of small-town life. Plus, I incorrectly assumed that I had the entire plot figured out. I liked the book well enough; I just thought I knew exactly where it was going. Plot twist, this isn’t your grandma’s Harlequin Romance.
There is a romance between Terri and Nate, and that part is as expected. What I didn’t expect was there extremely accurate descriptions of the relationships between people who live in a lake town and those who visit during the Summer. I also did not foresee the surprise mystery plot at all. This story is a great weekend read, and I’d recommend it if you are looking for a couple of hours of escapism.