Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Havenfall by Sara Holland

Amazon.com: Havenfall (9781547603794): Holland, Sara: Books

You can place a hold on a print copy or an eBook copy!

The Inn at Havenfall is a sanctuary between realms, where people from all worlds can come together safely to ensure peace and unity across the universe. Earth is the only non-magical realm, and for the sake of neutrality, the Innkeeper of Havenfall must be from there. This responsibility falls to Maddie’s uncle, who is tasked with running the Inn and preserving the delicate balance between the realms. Regardless of the pressure, Maddie’s summer visits convinced her that Havenfall is her home, and with her brother dead, her mom on death row, and her dad acting distant, she has nowhere left to go. Despite her father’s wishes, she wants more than anything to be the next Innkeeper and decides to spend her summer back at the Inn to learn from her uncle and gain his approval for her to become his successor. However, when a murder threatens the renowned safety of Havenfall and her uncle mysteriously falls unconscious, her dream starts to become true sooner than she expected. With her trust misplaced and her beliefs challenged, Maddie quickly realizes she’s in over her head as she tries to run the inn and uncover the truth about Havenfall. The fate of all the realms rests on her shoulders as forces conspire against her with the fragile balance of the worlds at risk.

While I truly enjoyed reading this book, it had its strengths and weaknesses. The plot itself was captivating, with the mystery and fantasy elements woven intricately, but the pacing was a bit off, with large chunks of exposition and narration broken up by repetitious flashbacks and plot-driving events. However, it wasn’t a detrimental issue because I was still able to appreciate the overarching story. In addition, the use of imagery in the world-building is exceptional and creative, but it feels wasted as the majority of the story only takes place at the inn. Since she is good at creating lush environments and colorful scenery, the author’s writing style is very much suited for an adventure that spans across the realms, and the one location makes it feel somewhat stuck and repetitive. The characters also lack much depth or development, except for Maddie in some cases. Nevertheless, while sometimes predictable, the story and its twists were entertaining, and, despite its flaws, I still felt invested in the novel and the fate of Havenfall.

The most memorable part of this book for me is the world-building because, while they are less explored, the realms were very unique and interesting to learn about. The history and lore of this universe were well-written and detailed, and the author’s ability to place the reader in these alternate realms with harsh environments and magical elements is excellent. While the origins of this multi-realm universe aren’t fully explained, the world itself was well-thought-out and well-imagined.

3-stars

Reviewed by Ananya, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Running by Natalia Sylvester

Amazon.com: Running (9780358124351): Sylvester, Natalia: Books

You can place a hold on an eBook copy here!

Mariana Ruiz wanted to be an actor when she was eight. Her parents seem to think that she hasn’t grown at all since then and act as if she loves the constant spotlight on her family. It’s only natural that people would watch her every move since her father is running for president. All Mariana wants is some privacy, but she can’t even ask for that apparently. With her parents constantly telling her that the openness to the public is for the good of the campaign, she feels like they aren’t even listening to her. To make things worse, her best friend Vivi is moving to Miami Beach. She has to switch schools and leave Mariana to deal with this all on her own. As her distaste for the situation grows, she learns more and more about her father’s beliefs, which she begins to question. Mariana has to be careful though, because the whole country is watching what she will do next.

I liked the premise of the book, it seemed interesting, and I was not disappointed. I could feel the pressure that Mariana’s parents had placed on her shoulders and the author succeeded in making it feel unfair. You can feel Mariana’s perspective on her family change as she begins to find her own opinion. I think the only complaint I have about this book is how Mariana doesn’t seem to truly know her father’s beliefs. She somehow lived with this person for years, she even says later how he sometimes said some questionable things, and yet she never put the two together. It doesn’t seem likely that a fifteen-year-old would be this oblivious to her own father’s beliefs. The book often states that their parents keep them out of politics, but this story is set in a hazy modern day when the internet is very much a thing. This wasn’t totally unbelievable, but it was not totally believable either. This one problem doesn’t ruin the entire book though, I still think it’s a pretty good book.

The thing that I think was the most memorable was the way the author wrote Mariana. Every complaint Mariana had felt completely understandable. Even though she had a lot of grievances, she never felt whiney or spoiled. She just sounded like a completely reasonable person. Personally, my father never has run for president, but I was still able to relate to Mariana. Even though I kinda complained about this earlier, Mariana discovering what her father actually believed in was interesting to read. I really like well-written characters and Mariana was not a disappointment!

4-stars

Reviewed by Elaine, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

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You can find an eBook copy here or an eAudiobook copy here.

The bright colorful world of K-pop is infamous for its seemingly unattainable beauty standards. Skye Shin knows all about them. Her mother has constantly told her since childhood how fat girls shouldn’t be on stage, but that wasn’t going to stop Skye. Skye wants to show her mother, and anyone else who doubts her, that fat girls are just as, if not more, talented than anyone else. That’s why when “You’re My Shining Star”, a new K-pop competition survival show, was hosted in LA, she auditioned without telling her mother. As Skye gets thrown into K-pop scene she is immediately hit with back-lash, but there are also plenty of people wanting her to succeed. Skye perseveres through the competition showing everyone that she is star-material, regardless of her body type.

The characters in this book are true gems! There was some dialogue that were definitely cheesy, but the struggles they faced were relatable. I truly understood Skye’s need to prove her mother wrong. I was genuinely rooting for her throughout the entire book. Another thing about the characters is that they felt like real people. Some of them were definitely more morally gray than others, and they didn’t feel like characters in a story. The plot moved forward a little quickly, especially in the beginning. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, but to me it felt like things were passing by quite quickly. The plot was good in the sense that nothing felt too unrealistic.

Even though I have already stated this, the characters are super memorable! I think I like the way they portray Skye’s mother the best. I don’t think that Skye’s mother wanted to hurt her daughter, but that is what ended up happening. In the book Skye repeatedly thinks about when she was younger and how low of a self-esteem she had due to her mother’s hurtful words. Obviously Skye and her mother love each other, but their relationship definitely took a hit because of her mother’s actions. Just because I think she is a complex character does not mean I condone her actions. She pushed her standards on Skye, completely blind to the pain it was causing her. I think a lot of parents could be guilty of this. Maybe not to this extent, but I’m sure some parents have said hurtful things because they want the best for their children.

5-stars

Reviewed by Elaine, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly by Meredith Tate

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You can place a hold on a print copy, eBook copy, or eAudiobook copy!

Autumn Casterly is a high school senior and drug dealer who hopes to make enough money to leave her town and her past behind. Popular but aloof, she hasn’t trusted anyone or had a real friend since her mother died. Ivy, her younger sister, is her polar opposite. She surrounds herself with a group of caring friends who share her similar “nerdy” interests. The sisters have become strangers since their mother’s death, but when one of Autumn’s deals goes wrong, she’s beaten and held hostage. Between life and death, Autumn leaves her body and wanders as a sort of ghost, her presence only somewhat felt by her sister. Together, they must work to find and rescue Autumn before it’s too late, uncovering secrets from their past and present to understand her kidnapping as well as the deterioration of their relationship.

I enjoyed reading this book; it was engaging, suspenseful, and authentic. While the dialogue at the beginning is a bit cheesy and the characters start out pretty stereotypical, it eventually builds into a gripping tale of two sisters as they reconnect after years as they deal with their grief and trauma of the past while solving the current mystery of Autumn’s disappearance. Ivy takes life-threatening risks and faces imminent danger to save her sister while Autumn struggles on the brink of death to figure out what happened to her. The switching of the perspectives between Autumn and Ivy gives a meaningful insight into the action as well as on how their mindsets originally clash and then develop over time. Furthermore, the handling of issues such as poverty, loss, consent, and others, are done well and woven into the plot realistically, helping the more mature themes of the book stand out and convey important messages to the reader.

The most memorable part of this story for me was Autumn’s development as a character. With her new vantage point as a sort of ‘spirit’, she’s able to watch how she affects the people in her life from an outsider’s perspective. As she learns from these experiences, and as we learn more about her and her past, her character development becomes more complex and compelling. Autumn’s growth is written realistically and masterfully, making her a memorable and sympathetic character.

4-stars

Reviewed by Ananya, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson

Amazon.com: Let's Go Swimming on Doomsday (9780399547614 ...

You can place a hold on a print copy, eBook copy, or eAudiobook copy!

Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday tells the story of teenager Abdi and his family, who live in Somalia, Africa. In Somalia, there is an Islamic terrorist group called Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab is known for killing or kidnapping civilians and making young boys become soldiers. Troops from the United States, as well as Africa, are working to defeat Al-Shabaab, but this group continues to terrorize Somalia. Abdi’s older brother gets kidnapped from school and then three years later, Abdi’s entire family gets violently kidnapped from their home. When Abdi is offered a chance to save his family, he goes for it, even if it means he has to become a child soldier in Al-Shabaab’s Army. Abdi’s story is split between the then and the now, which was a little confusing, but each chapter is dated, which helps you follow the timeline of the story.

I thought this book was a real page turner. Although there are violent parts, you want to keep reading to find out what happens to Abdi and his family. Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday is a fiction book but reads very much like a non-fiction book. The characters and places are written so realistically, I found myself double checking to make sure that this truly was a fiction book. I think the author did a great job of portraying what kinds of things people might to do to protect and rescue their family. Although the violent parts of this book are hard to read, I think Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday is a must-read book for everybody.

The most memorable part of the book was when we get to see snippets of Abdi’s past life with his family. The memory of Abdi, his brother, and father on the boat show how much the family loved one another and that they lived a pretty normal life. The memories of his family are what drives Abdi to survive, and I liked that we got to relive them with him.

5-stars

Reviewed by James, Twin Hickory Library