I think I can safely say that these have absolutely nothing in common. OH! Wait! This is like, the first time that they have all already been released! There we go, wheee!
Stevie, Max, and Sanger: keeping Austin weird.
Stevie Hart is homeschooled, but don’t hold that against her. Sure, she and her best (okay, only) friend, Sanger, will never be prom queens, but that’s just because the Central Austin Homeschool Cooperative doesn’t believe in proms. Or dancing. Still, Stevie and Sanger know how to create their own brand of fun.
Enter Max Garza, the new boy next door. After a near-fatal accident, Max is determined to defy mortality with a checklist: 23 Ways to Fake My Death Without Dying. Dead set on carrying out fabricated demises ranging from impalement to spontaneous combustion, Max charms Stevie and Sanger into helping him with this two-month macabre mission. But as Stevie finds herself falling for Max, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw a line between his make-believe deaths and her real life.
This was a fun book. I didn’t really think it was going to be as fun as it was, actually. Of course I thought it would be good or I wouldn’t have wanted to read it, but I was not expecting laugh-out-loud funny either. Stevie and Sanger are just delightfully weird, and when Max comes into the picture, well, he and his wacky fake-deaths fit right in somehow. I think I assumed it would be extra tragic? View Spoiler »Frankly, I thought that we were going to find out that Max really DID have some terminal illness, or that Stevie’s diabetes was going to do her in. I was basically scared of some kind of TFIOS moment. « Hide Spoiler
And sure, faking one’s death 23 times is kind of silly (and in hindsight, disrespectful) but… they’re kids. And they learn a lot throughout their adventures, which I think makes it worth it. Because look, who among us hasn’t done something when we were younger (or even now) that in retrospect was a little flippant? That’s how we learn, right?
I really loved all the characters. They were very well done, and I found myself caring for each of them- even some of the more minor ones. I felt like they were the kind of quirky people I’d know in real life. They weren’t perfect, either, which I liked. Sanger tried to be tough all the time, even to the point of hurting her friend, Stevie could be judgmental, and she was quite sheltered. And Max… well, he was faking his death 23 times, so there’s that. But they were just decent kids trying to navigate their way through changing relationships and growing up.
I think the best part was that each of them learned so much about themselves- and each other- along the way. And the reader was endlessly entertained by their shenanigans, and yes, by some of the more poignant moments as well. Because while it was a fun book, it did tackle a bit of the tougher stuff too, which is kind of my favorite thing in a contemporary novel.
Bottom Line: The writing was fabulous and funny, the story flowed perfectly, and the characters were so much fun to read. A definite win!
Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?
Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.
That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.
When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.
Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.
This is a weird review to write. On one hand, I loved Mark a lot. I liked Kate. I loved Mark and Kate as friends. I felt for Mark and his unrequited love for his best friend (this has been me more times than I care to admit). I liked watching Mark and Kate learn about relationships, both platonic and romantic. I enjoyed that this was a book about living while being openly gay.
So what went wrong? Well, nothing. It wasn’t that it was bad at all, it just lacked… something. Something that is hard for me to put my finger on. I guess really, the whole book takes place over the course of a week, and frankly, not a ton happens. Sure, Kate and Mark became fast friends (which doesn’t bother me, sometimes you just click with people!), and they dealt with some feelings and relationship stuff, and some issues with their existing friends. They went to Pride Week (which I did really like!), and Kate did some art stuff. But… that was it. And while I am generally down for character driven books, I still needed a bit more to make this a homerun for me.
And while the characters’ journeys were great and quite often emotionally moving, some of the plot points seemed a bit unbelievably coincidental. To the point where I couldn’t really wrap my head around it being plausible.
Bottom Line: Come for the friendships. Come for the writing. Come for the strong LGBTQIA+ representation. Expect emotion and introspection, but not a ton of action.
Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back--with no idea of where they've been.
Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn't come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max's sister Avery, who needs to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story.
This was quite an enjoyable book. I won’t say much because frankly, I like to keep reviews of this type of book vague and short. As far as said mystery goes, I was definitely intrigued. I mean, kids disappearing, then coming back eleven years later? Yeah, that’s messed up. And by the by, they don’t know where they’ve been, who with, or even who they are.
-All the characters in this book-
I liked that there was skepticism, because let’s be real, you know full well that there would be like “sure, you ‘don’t remember’, now where’s the sixth dude?!”, but I also liked that there was a lot of support. I felt the most connected with Lucas for some reason, and I enjoyed his character the most. I wish that Avery, the only POV that wasn’t one of the missing, was more fleshed out. Maybe that was kind of the point though, since she’d been living in her missing brother’s shadow? I have no idea. And there were of course romances and friendships, but they were… kind of weird, as you’d expect in this situation. Most of them kind of made sense, but there was one romantic thing that while I did feel some chemistry, it kind of didn’t make a ton of sense, logically.
I also felt that the family portrayals were great. Seeing the aftermath of such a horrible, life ruining event felt sadly realistic. And while I did see a few twists coming, most of them I only realized close to when they were going to happen- and a lot were flat out surprising. But I wasn’t in love with how the whole thing wrapped up, and I’ll leave it at that.
Oh, and I think Scarlett’s POV chapters were supposed to have some kind of “unique” formatting, but on my eARC, it just showed up as random characters and/or letters in the middle of paragraphs, so I do feel like that may have taken some of the “oomph” out of her character for me- and obviously won’t be the case for anyone reading a finished copy!
Bottom Line: I liked it! While there were a few weaker spots, it was overall quite enjoyable, and I was definitely invested in the outcome.
A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.
Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.
As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.
Okay, first of all, I didn’t hate the book or anything, so put down the pitchforks. I just was…underwhelmed, I guess? Maybe I was expecting something different? I have no idea. But this was a mixed bag for me. Definitely there were good parts that I enjoyed, so that’s a plus! Let’s discuss those, hmm?
- The. Setting. Look, you say prehistoric, and I am there. Every time a mammoth was mentioned, I was legitimately giddy. And it was very clear that humans weren’t exactly thriving at this point, which was probably terrifying.
- The atmosphere of the book was very well written and suited the time period. I felt the solitude of the characters, the desolation of the landscape. There were animals attacking and vast unsettled wilderness, all the fun stuff. And sadly, not a ton of reproductive options in these clans, which is obviously bad news.
- I liked Kol, and I liked his family. While he wasn’t as fleshed out as I’d have liked, what I did know about him I enjoyed. He just seemed like a decent person and I liked that the “softer” side of prehistoric people was shown rather than a barbaric one.
The Neither Good nor Bad But Worth Noting:
- This book is written in second person. Basically, it’s Kol talking to Mya, referring to her as “you” during the book. This didn’t really bother me, but I think it should be mentioned? Great. Consider it mentioned.
- The synopsis says this is a “prehistoric fantasy”, and I don’t really know what the fantasy element is? Maybe it’s in the next books? Or, maybe it is because we don’t know these things to be historically true, so the author had to create some of the history? No idea. But if you’re expecting some kind of, well, fantasy (which I wasn’t, so I was fine with it), it isn’t here.
The Not As Good:
- I didn’t really buy Kol’s feelings for Mya. I mean, okay, he’s basically never seen girls his age, and I didn’t really get much chemistry other than like, what I assume biology would dictate, especially when she’s one of like, three eligible females within a bagillion miles or something. I just sort of felt like Kol didn’t really care about Mya as much as he cared about female in reproductive age range. Which is not a bad thing, considering… it just doesn’t exactly make me swoon.
- I feel like this could have been set anytime, anywhere, and still remained mostly the same. I mean, clans fighting, romantic turmoil, rushing to save each other… with mammoths thrown in. I just felt like Kol and Mya could have been plopped into pretty much any other setting and fit, which was kind of disappointing- I just wanted more of the world.
- The story kind of lags, especially in the beginning. I was really worried when I was at about 40% and I was rooting for the characters to be trampled by mammoths. Too harsh? Look, I needed some excitement, and a mammoth trampling would have provided that. I just wasn’t getting much of a plot- it was mostly just clan living and “Why is Mya acting like a jerk?” and stuff.
Maybe I am not supposed to want to snuggle the hell out of this, but I do. I really do. (Click picture for source.)
- When the plot did come into play (and it did!) it just didn’t blow me away. Maybe that’s on me, and I know how hugely subjective that is, so take it for what it’s worth. I don’t know if it was predictable necessarily, it just wasn’t as high stakes as I’d hoped.
- There are a lot of characters, and I don’t feel like I got to know any of them- even Mya and Kol. Sure, I had a better grasp of them than other characters, but I kept getting confused about all the different clanspeople, because their names were all basically two or three letter names that aren’t in our language. While I don’t expect them to be named Mary and Joe, I did hope to know enough about them to remember their names because of their character development.
Bottom Line: I wanted to love this one so badly, and there were definitely parts I liked. I will probably give the second one a shot, because it did pick up more at the end, and I would like to see where the author takes the series.