The Lost Causes novel

The Lost Causes: Not Cliche, Super-powered Teens

The Lost Causes by Jessica Koosed Etting & Alyssa Embree Schwartz

Published by Kids Can Press, expected September 2017

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller

Pages: 344

The Lost Causes has so many of my favorite tropes wrapped up in one book. I’m such a sucker for ensemble casts, like three or more main characters and I’m in. I love teen powers as long as it’s not “This one kid is the chosen one!” And I love friendship stories, especially unlikely friendships! This book doesn’t disappoint.

 

The Lost Causes Novel

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

They’re the kids that no one knows — or no one wants to know. The rich depressive, the OCD chick, the hypochondriac, the drug abuser, the athlete with anger management issues. All chosen for intensive group therapy because they’re out of other options. They’re lost causes, the therapist tells them. She promises this support group will help them heal. 

There’s only one problem. She’s not a therapist. And that water she offers? It contains a dangerous serum that gives each of the kids a psychic power. 

Suddenly, they can think clearly, speak to ghosts, see the past, even move objects with their mind. Their earlier problems have vanished, but their new freedom comes with a price. 
Sabrina, Gabby, Z, Justin and Andrew are to help the FBI solve the grisly murder that has rocked their small town. Their new powers will help them uncover clues and follow leads that have eluded the authorities. Their outsider status gives them the perfect cover. 

But the same traits that make them top investigators also make them vulnerable. As they close in on the murderer, they expose a much larger conspiracy that puts them directly in harm’s way and makes them wonder who — if anyone — they can trust.

The Lost Causes nvel

Are so fun! This to me has a Heroes vibe (before the show became unbearable), or even more accurately, Misfits (also before it became unbearable). I LOVED Misfits, and this is like a book version of that! So cute.

I also think the powers given to the kids are cool. I was surprised by one being able to see ghosts, for example. It seems almost out of place, even for a story about kids with powers. But I think it works really, really well here.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Are so great. I love them all. Each of the five self-titled “Lost Causes” has their own distinct background and reason for being a kid whose parents have given up on them.

I thought the kids would blend together, or become too much like set archetypes, but they all broke the mold pretty quickly! I knew their names/backstories/powers within the first few chapters, which for me says a lot because I have trouble keeping it straight with ensemble casts unless everyone is really different.

The teens feel so realistic. They often behave in annoying but so teenager-y ways and I love it.

I rooted for both romances in the story, even squealing out loud when one came to fruition.

I LOVE stories about friendship, and I especially adore stories about unlikely friendships. It’s my favorite thing about shows like Misfits, and it was what saved One Of Us Is Lying for me. Here, I really enjoyed watching the kids get to know each other. There isn’t cattiness or jealousy among the girls, because they’ve wanted a friend so badly and now they have each other. I love it.

Also worth noting, especially the farther we go along, we get a humanization of the villains, and I always find that so spectacular. I love having an antagonist I simultaneously hate and feel bad for.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

The pacing is spot on. I started the book this morning and finished this afternoon, taking breaks here and there to play with my dog and talk to my kiddo, but the book was never far away, and I would have been truly disappointed if I’d had to walk away from it for any prolonged time today. The kids really draw you in, and the plot unfolding holds interest.

I think the powers are written really well, especially the ghost scenes which are nice and creepy! I would have been freaked out if I’d been reading at night, and that’s really all I want from a ghost scene.

The end was tied up a little too neatly for me, but then the last few sentences are a cliffhanger so yay! I would love to read another in this series.

The Lost Causes novel

Is really cool, I didn’t see it coming. Really, it’s a series of twists and turns and it’s so delightfully unsettling. I love not knowing who to trust, and I love that for the last third or so of the book, I was totally out of my element with no idea what to expect!

And the cliffhanger especially, oh boy. I am so stoked for whatever is coming.

Is that considering I didn’t know what to expect (books like this can really, really go either way), I really enjoyed this! I read it more-or-less in one sitting.

Also, it’s not important to me, but it may be to you, this is a decently clean read for a YA about misfits. No cursing, no sex. There is some reference to drug use, but only very early on.

The Lost Causes novel

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/balloon animal artist. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.



 

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

These Things I’ve Done: My Favorite Contemporary of 2017

These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips

Published by HarperTeen; scheduled for August 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 352

So much of how I feel can be summarized into one thought:

It is really special when a book tells you from the very beginning exactly what’s going to happen, and still makes you cry when it happens.

These Things I’ve Done ends the first chapter by telling you exactly what part Dara played in Aubrey’s death, and still, reading about it killed me. In the best way possible.

This book is so. Damn. Good. Y’all!

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

All the Wrong Chords Book

Before:
Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable.

After:
It’s been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn’t racked with guilt over her role in her best friend’s death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn’t half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey’s brother, every day. Not just because he’s a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she’s betraying her best friend one final time.

All the Wrong Chords Book

One thing I find happening more and more as I read more YA is that I shout a lot. Seriously. I yell, probably two or three times a week, “TEENAGERS DON’T ACT LIKE THIS!”

Part of the magic of These Things I’ve Done is that Dara, our narrator, acts exactly how a kid in her position would. Now, I haven’t been in her situation. But her grief feels so real and natural and I was pulled right in. I felt it with her, and that’s what I need from a narrator. Dara isn’t always exactly likable, which to me is perfect, because who the hell would be? It’s just such a perfect depiction of pain and regret.

Ethan, Aubrey’s brother, is so great. He’s a perfect balance to Dara, because while he’s suffering the same loss, he chooses to handle it the exact opposite way. Their interactions are beautiful, in both the After and Before timelines.

We also get a lot of fun secondary characters like the members of Ethan’s band, who provide some lighter pages, which I love. I love a book that’s sad and then funny and then oh now it’s sad again but then look some comic relief and oh now I’m crying. Dara’s parents and brother, both together and individually, have their own character arcs so that’s wonderful.

I will say between Dara and Aubrey there’s some of that thing I hate where two main female characters deal with jealousy because one is prettier than the other, but it didn’t drive me nearly as crazy here because Dara isn’t particularly annoying about it.

All the Wrong Chords Book

Is gorgeous! I don’t say this often, but I feel here that every word is necessary. It’s never overly flowery, never the kind of rambling that makes me accidentally skip lines. It’s clear and concise but totally beautiful.

The chapters alternate between a current and past timeline. In the current, Dara has just moved back home after a year away following Aubrey’s death. In the past timeline, we watch the relationship between Dara and Aubrey adjust to Aubrey’s new boyfriend. We also get to get a feel for the dynamics between Aubrey and Ethan, and Dara and Ethan, before the incident. I tend to be really critical of alternating timelines, as it can go horribly awry, but it works here. We’re way more affected by Dara and Ethan’s grief because we’ve seen the Before picture.

It starts with a slow burn, building and acclimating you to the world. But about halfway through, it becomes irresistible. At the halfway point, I had to keep reading. The best compliment I can give a book (and its author)!

Me, for most of my free time today ^

Thanks so much to HarperTeen for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/girlfriend/boyfriend/lumberjack. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.



All The Wrong Chords book

All the Wrong Chords

All The Wrong Chords by Christine Hurley Deriso

Published by Flux; scheduled for December, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 204 (ebook)

Wellll I broke my streak of super happy reviews, but that’s okay! Three in a row was great, and I’m thankful, and this one is not the end of the world. I think it’s time for another pro/con list!

All the Wrong Chords book

All the Wrong Chords Book

Scarlett Stiles is desperate for a change of scenery after her older brother, Liam, dies of a drug overdose. But spending the summer with her grandfather wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Luckily, Scarlett finds something to keep her busy–a local rock band looking for a guitarist. Even though playing guitar has been hard since Liam died, Scarlett can’t pass on an opportunity like this, and she can’t take her eyes off the band’s hot lead singer either. Is real happiness just around the corner? Or will she always be haunted by her brother’s death?

Pros:

All the Wrong Chords Book

I really liked every secondary character! Scarlett’s grandpa is awesome. Her best friend, Varun, is hilarious and I love their texting throughout the book. Her sister is great, the band members are great. You get it. Everyone is awesome. Except Scarlett, but we’ll get to that in the cons.

All the Wrong Chords Book

Is really easy to get through. It’s not a super long book, and it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a very quick, simple read.

All the Wrong Chords Book

I love any story that works music into it. I really like that Scarlett uses the band to help her with her feelings about her deceased brother.

All the Wrong Chords Book

I think it is portrayed very realistically, though, that said, I haven’t lost anyone as close as a brother to death. Everything associated with grief, like the sense of guilt and the “what if” and the heartbreak, that all felt very natural and realistic to me.

Cons:

All the Wrong Chords Book

Ohhhh Scarlett. I am conflicted, because Scarlett does get better as the book progresses, and her decisions become much better toward the end also. Scarlett has some of my least favorite fiction “girl behavior” though.

  1. Scarlett is endlessly jealous of her sister’s looks/way with guys, though it’s mentioned several times that they’re often mistaken for identical twins?
  2. Scarlett ignores everyone and alienates her friend/sister to try to get closer to a guy who is clearly garbage.
  3. She treats the other band members poorly with the shitty guy, in order to establish some sense of camaraderie.

Her entire relationship (using the term loosely) with Declan is awful and painful and full of red flags she chooses to ignore. Now, I know, teenagers do this. We all choose people who are wrong for us (see 90% of everyone I’ve ever been involved with) but she becomes obsessed with Declan despite his ignoring her to hit on her sister, his constant dgaf attitude about their band, his actively treating her poorly, and his trying to get her to move faster physically than she wants to. NOT OKAY.

Again, people do this. We like the wrong people. But I thought back while reading this to some of my worse relationships, when I was my least rational, and I could at least always say things like:

“Well he’s a really charming alcoholic.”

“I know she’s mean but she’s really funny!”

“Okay yeah he lies a lot but he’s also really brilliant.”

My point is, they had good qualities. I’m sorry, but Declan has zero good qualities. She’s obsessed with him based solely on his looks, and lets it mess up everything for her for more than half the book. I can’t say that I’ve ever been so attracted to someone’s appearance that I’ve been willing to overlook character flaws in EVERY OTHER CATEGORY. Is this a thing? Maybe it’s just me, and please let me know if you’ve ever been so hot for someone that you didn’t care that they had nothing else going for them.

This made it really unrealistic for me, as you can see, and it made it hard for me to connect to Scarlett.

All the Wrong Chords book

So, this quote from Scarlett really upset me:

“I’m being overly critical, right? Of course any normal guy is going to try to push things physically as far as he can. How many dudes are dying to “talk” in the middle of a make out session?”

Ooooookay. So, we have our narrator asserting the idea that a lot of young women have: “normal guys” can’t help themselves around us. They cannot control their impulses. They are mindless, vagina-seeking zombies, who want us for sex and only sex. This line of thinking disrespects everyone. That she attributes his fucked up behavior to his being male infuriates and disgusts me.

Even if she comes around to eventually seeing that Declan was a shit show, she doesn’t ever acknowledge that he put her in a bad situation, where she felt uncomfortable. She made this excuse and many others for the behavior, but never addressed it as a legitimate problem.

We. Cannot. Have. Narrators. We. Like. And. Want. To. Root. For. Contributing. To. Rape. Culture.

This makes me crazy.

 

 



 

 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and Glass: Feminist, Fairy-tale, Fantastic

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Published by Flatiron Books; scheduled for September, 2017

Genre: Fantasy, Re-telling, Fairy-tale

Pages: 400

I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT SO MANY THINGS RIGHT NOW! 1) I get to give a THIRD great review in a row! 2) I managed three reviews in one week! 3) This book is phenomenal and I am still super emotional and maybe gently weeping.

When I heard the premise of Girls Made of Snow and Glass, mainly that it was a feminist re-telling of Snow White, I thought: oh hell yes. Then I thought: that’s going to be crazy, because the premise of Snow White is literally Woman A wants Woman B dead because Woman B is prettier than her. 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Is amazing! It’s dark, y’all. I LOVE the idea so much. The twists on the Queen’s obsession with mirrors is phenomenal. I was trying to figure out how well it sticks to the Snow White story, and it actually does fairly closely, minus the dwarves. But everything is new and different; the poisoning is so cool, the huntsman is amazing.

The magic! Is so cool! We have one woman with a heart of glass and one girl made of snow and it’s just so unbelievably cool.

I did a review recently of a re-telling that I didn’t love, and a big problem for me was that the re-telling rested on the novelty of the original story in a lot of ways, and it was lazy and didn’t make sense for something new and modern. This is a PERFECT re-telling with the understanding that we don’t want to read a fucking story about women who want each other dead over who’s prettiest, or a girl waiting desperately for a kiss from a prince.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

ARE SO GOOD. And for the record, this is a very character-driven book. We’ll talk about it a little more when we talk about the writing.

This is my favorite part about the story, so I hope I can even do justice to what I want to say without it being a rambling mess.

So we have Lynet, the Snow White character, who is young and dealing with identity issues. Her father had her created to look JUST like her mother, and wants her to behave just like her mother (creepy af, right? Some serious creepy dad shit in this book). Lynet just wants to be her own person. OH YEAH, and she’s queer! Her budding romance with a surgeon named Nadia is so effing cute.

Then we have Mina, the stepmom or “evil queen” character. Now, she’s less likable than Lynet fo sho, but I also think she’s a WAY better character. She, for me, is what makes this book so beautiful. Her father has consistently told her she cannot love or be loved, because her heart is made of glass. Her father AND her husband are obsessed with Lynet, and we watch how it affects her. So we don’t get a tale of hatred or evil, but of resentment. And what is more real than that? We also don’t see Mina mindlessly hating Lynet because she’s beautiful, but because she’s the spitting image of the former queen, the one Mina’s husband will always love, even though he doesn’t love Mina. We get such a clear understanding of why she’s obsessed with mirrors, why she’s crazy about her looks. It’s amazing. I can’t say enough about it.

And again, we have two creepy dads who I thoroughly love hating.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

So! The writing is gorgeous. It alternates timelines, which if you’ve read some of my past reviews, you know I’m weary of. This can be SO hard to pull off, but it works so well in this case! We alternate between the current story, which is third person but following Lynet, and the past timeline, which is also third person and following Mina. The slow reveal of details in the past timeline helps the new timeline make more and more sense, and it’s perfect.

The pacing, I will say, has a couple of issues. This is the ONLY thing in the book I wasn’t totally enamored with, and I gave it five stars anyway. I saw that most reviews are glowing, and the few that DNF’d the book all did so at a slower point that you have to push through to get to the action! Now I will say I never had problems pushing through, I love this book from the first to the last page. But I did notice some slowing in a few areas, and I think it’s worth noting.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Lynet and Nadia being queer is amazing and beautiful and I love f/f romances and how I’m seeing more of them.

Also, we have two (really three) leading ladies who are well-developed, full beings. We get to see friendship and mother/daughter issues and love and all through the eyes of women who are wonderfully varied. They don’t have to give up all things traditionally feminine to be smart, strong women.

Is that I haven’t had a book make me cry in a while. This one did, probably three times. The last line was just, ugh. I mean this as such a big compliment.

I would recommend Girls Made of Snow and Glass to absolutely everyone! Request it on NetGalley, my fellow book bloggers!

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/balloon animal artist. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.



 

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

Contribute: An Awesome Contribution to the Book World

Contribute (Holo #2) by Kristy Acevedo

Published by Jolly Fish Press; scheduled for July eleventh, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Pages: 330

Wow! I finished both books in this series in three days. They are SO good. I also really like that they’re not too long. I’m finding YA books are getting longer and longer, and a lot of it is for no reason? These books are beautifully written and concise and exactly as long as they needed to be.

SO yesterday I wrote my review of Consider, the first book in this series, and you can read that here.

I found these books on accident, and I’m so glad! They broke my streak of bad books. The sequel did not disappoint!

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

Contribute novel by Kristy Acevedo

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

The holograms lied to everyone on Earth and only Alexandra Lucas knows the truth. Now she’s trapped in the year 2359 without family or friends—worse, without her anxiety medication. Alex attempts to reconcile the marvelous scenery, technological advances, and luxurious living with the knowledge that the holograms weren’t being completely honest—what else are they lying about? With a secret that could shatter her society, Alex tries to find her place among strangers, convicts, and a rebellion striving to bring the holograms down. Alex struggles to find the best way to reveal the truth and reunite with those she loves. But when surrounded by beauty and every convenience, Alex wonders if truth becomes irrelevant in a perfect world.

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

It’s almost even unfair to be judging this one as a sequel! It’s honestly like two stand-alone books with familiar characters. And I like that! The first book is way more focused on the everyday life and what’s happening on Earth. Well, when we start the second, Alex is being transported through the vertex to the new planet, the setting of the second novel.

Consider relies heavily on character building, and less on setting. It almost reads like a contemporary or dystopian, with sci-fi elements.

Contribute, though, is full on sci-fi with fantastic world-building and words like magpod and biohologram. It can’t even be compared to the first book, because they are seriously different genres.

I like that! I have never read a two-part series where the two books differ so drastically. The first book left me so raw and emotional and invested in the characters, and the second gave me the action and world-building I need from a sci-fi. I love it so much. I can’t say that enough.

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

Most characters from Consider are also in Contribute. But other than Alex, the characters from Consider play mostly smaller roles. What’s exciting is that we get a whole new cast of people to love and dislike and count on and be emotional about.

We get another kickass female friendship, this time between Alex and Katherine, a crazy amazing hacker and former convict. We also get a totally innocent, not creepy in the slightest friendship between Alex and Doctor A., an older man. I really, really like odd relationship dynamics, so I dug this one a lot.

I will say that I wasn’t as emotionally invested here. There were some deaths here that, had they happened in the first book, I would have taken a lot harder. But again, the characters weren’t as much the focus of Contribute, and I’m okay with that.

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

is gorgeous in a completely different way from the first. The first had me so emotional and obsessed with Alex’s anxiety (the most realistic depiction of the disorder I’ve seen in fiction, as I mentioned in the first review).

The world-building in Contribute is top-notch. I want to draw fan art. I want to journal about this place. This one also had a lot more going on in terms of a fast-paced plot, and some of the twists had me yelling out loud. Here’s a screenshot of my reading update on Goodreads:

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

I wrote “WHAT?!?!” Because I actually yelled “WHAT?!?!” aloud. There is no greater compliment I can give than yelling/speaking/cursing aloud as I read.

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

Is that there is so much pressure and so many high expectations about a sequel. I ended up giving Contribute four out of five stars. Is that fair? I don’t know. You can see I obviously enjoyed it. I did feel some things were a little rushed at the end, and I can’t describe the feeling I have been left with. It’s possible that discovering a new book you ADORE is an experience that can’t be repeated, so no matter how good the sequel is, it can’t match up. That’s what I’m going with here, because that’s the only explanation I’ve been able to come up with.

I would recommend Consider and Contribute to absolutely everyone!

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/hot-dog vendor. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.