The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

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Flora BanksFrom GoodreadsSeventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

What if you couldn’t remember anything for more than a few minutes or hours at a time? What if you had no memories from the past seven years? What if, suddenly, one moment and everything about it sticks? Would you travel to the ends of the earth to chase the only memory you have?

For Flora, the written word, whether it’s on Post-its, in notebooks, or on her arms, is her lifeline to the world around her. With no ability to create new memories, she must rely on these notes to help her make sense of her life. It is her normal. But when she wakes up the morning after a party with the very visceral and real memory of kissing her best friends’ boyfriend the night before, an entirely new set of possibilities opens up for Flora. Could Drake be the cure for Flora’s mind? Can love really heal?

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Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

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AllegedlyFrom Goodreads: Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

Mary has spent the past six years serving time for a crime she never actually admitted to. Time spent mostly in isolation in adult prison– as a nine-year old– for a crime to severe for juvie, but a child far too young to serve with adults. Released to a group home when she is 15, Mary must live as a ward of the state until her 18th birthday. Just before she turns 16, she realizes she is pregnant. But the state will never let a “baby-killer” keep a baby. In order to protect her growing child and the family she dreams of, Mary will finally have to tell the truth of what happened that night– the night Baby Alyssa died. It’s a secret she’s been keeping for years.

I read this book in less than a day. I started it on a break at work, then picked it back up when I got home. And never put it back down. I had to know the truth of what happened. Who really killed Baby Alyssa and how. And why. I couldn’t stop until I had all the answers.

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Every Exquisite Thing

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From Goodreads: Star athlete and straight-A student Nanette O’Hare has played the role of dutiful daughter for as long as she can remember. But one day, a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper– a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic– and the rebel within Nanette awakens.

As the new and outspoken Nanette attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, she befriends the reclusive author and falls in love with a young, troubled poet. Forced to make some hard choices that bring devastating consequences, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion can sometimes come at a high price.

This is honestly the hardest book I’ve ever tried to review. I read this book months ago. This review has been sitting in my drafts forever. I’ve written and deleted paragraph after paragraph, not quite coming up with the words I really want to use. I’m not sure why. The more I think about it, the more conflicted I am with what I want to say. I liked this book. Or at least parts of it. I remember thinking as I read and as I finished that there was so much within this book that was relatable and important. But attempting to write about the book has been a lot harder than I thought.

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As I read through, I found myself saying, “Wow! This is an amazing quote! This is such an important theme!” But when it came time to write about it… Nothing.

But I keep coming back to this review, still trying to write something about it, because I still feel like there are words in there somewhere.

(*Note– By the end, I found a lot of words. For having nothing to say, this is probably the longest review I’ve written. Be warned.

Also, there are some minor spoilers, but no major plot line reveals. So it’s semi-spoiler free?)

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The Female of the Species

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From GoodreadsAlex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

Rarely is there a book that I’ve read lately that I’ve finished and wanted to scream “READ THIS!!!!!” at everyone I see. One that I want to carry with me at work at all times so I can hand it to every single person who asks for a recommendation. Rarely has there been a book that I’ve thought so hard about and has stayed with me for so long after I finished it. And one that is so incredibly timely in light of recent events. But here it is. Seriously. READ THIS.

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Hotel Ruby

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From Goodreads: Stay tonight. Stay forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

After Audrey’s mother dies suddenly, her family life spirals out of control. While she’s acting out, her father is closing himself off. After a wild party where Audrey loses control, her father decides to send her and her older brother Daniel to live with her grandmother. But first they stop at Hotel Ruby for the night. The hotel may be out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s far from boring. A one night stay turns into days as Audrey and her family get caught up in the hotel life and all it has to offer, including love. Maybe staying at Hotel Ruby wouldn’t be such a bad thing. After all, the motto there is Stay tonight. Stay Forever.  Continue reading

30 Second Reviews

I mentioned earlier that there were quite a few books that I read that I never wrote a review on. (Nearly a dozen…) They just sat there, mocking me, begging me to share my thoughts. And then I just gave up completely, and let them go. But some of those books were good. Some of them I want to at least acknowledge and give a nod to like a good blogger and reviewer. So here it goes. My very concise, condensed version of a book review– or as I may begin to call them, 30 second reviews.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild RobotFrom Goodreads: When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.

This is a middle grade novel from one of my favorite children’s illustrators, Peter Brown. I was stoked when I saw that he had a novel coming out, because his picture books are some of my favorites to read during storytime at work. This one didn’t disappoint. It’s an adorable, heartfelt story about what it means to be a friend, a community, and a family. There’s action and adventure, with humor and heartbreak thrown in to round it out. With Brown’s illustrations scattered throughout, I was hooked. I loved following Roz through her journey, navigating her new home, making new friends, and finding out what it means to love.

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

23203106From Goodreads: Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

This was one that sat for so long, I kind of forgot what happened. I was drawn in by the cover (how gorgeous is it??) and by others who raved about it and its plot twist. I’m a sucker for a good plot twist, so I picked it up. I remember reading it. I remember being drawn into the world and the characters. I remember thinking, “this is insane” at some parts. And then I remember not being completely blown over by the twist. It was twisty, definitely, and I didn’t see it coming, but I wrote in the notes on my phone “more of a whimper than a bang.” Still a good story though. A very quick read that I’m glad I read. Just not one of my absolute all-time favorites.

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

25639296From Goodreads: There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

This is another one that I read, then promptly forgot. Much like Wink Poppy Midnight, it was dark and twisty and you spent most of the time trying to figure out what was happening and who did what. But also like Wink Poppy Midnight, the twist came and I just didn’t care that much.

Burning by Danielle Rollins

BurningFrom Goodreads: After three years in juvie, Angela Davis is just a few months shy of release, and she’ll finally be free from the hole that is Brunesfield Correctional Facility. Then Jessica arrives. Only ten years old and under the highest security possible, this girl has to be dangerous, even if no one knows what she did to land in juvie. As strange things begin happening to Angela and her friends that can only be traced to the new girl’s arrival, it becomes clear that Brunesfield is no longer safe. They must find a way to get out, but how can they save themselves when the world has forgotten them?

This seemed like it had such potential to be a creepy psychological thriller– my FAVORITE. There were scenes that had so much creep-factor that I thought, “Wow! This is amazing!” And then it got weird. And not in a way I really enjoyed. The side characters were incredibly stereotypical–think every bad movie or show you’ve seen about prison–and the plot went in a direction that left me completely disconnected from the story. I wanted to like it from the synopsis, but… Meh.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)From Goodreads: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

This might turn into a bit more than a 30-second review because I can’t believe I let this book sit on my desk for as long as I did without writing about it. I LOVED this book. It’s an Ocean’s 11-style heist story set in a bit of a fantasy Russia backdrop. I was hesitant to pick it up at first because it revisits the world Bardugo created in her Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising), which I haven’t read. I wasn’t sure if I would understand and be able to keep up in a world that I knew nothing about, but I shouldn’t have worried. It may have been helpful to read the trilogy beforehand to understand the Grisha, who they were, and the prejudice that others have against them, but it wasn’t necessary. Six of Crows stands well on its own.

When the world is threatened with destruction by what amounts to magical biological warfare, Kaz and his crew of misfits and thieves are offered a very handsome reward to essentially save the world. But in order to do that, they have to break into the most heavily guarded vault in the center of a military training facility in the most protected court in the world. And get out alive.

I want to see this as a movie, because it would be amazing. It’s gritty and dark and filled with action. At one point, I wrote in my notes, in all caps, “HOLY SHIT HE JUST _______________” I won’t spoil what happened. But it was gruesome. And it kind of sealed the deal on my love for this book. I can’t WAIT to pick up Crooked Kingdom to find out how it all ends.

Alright. That’s about half of the books that I haven’t reviewed yet.. So stay tuned for another installment of 30-second reviews!

Photo Credits: All cover photos are from Goodreads.

The Last Boy and Girl in the World

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian

What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?

While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.

And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost outweighs the risk.

Almost.

— From the book jacket of The Last Boy and Girl in the World 

Aberdeen, a small town on the banks of a river, has been home to Keeley Hewitt’s family for generations. When constant rain threatens to flood the town, Aberdeen’s residents are faced with only one choice– pack up and leave the town they’ve called home or lose it all. But as everyone around her is leaving, Keeley’s family is fighting for their town, and Keeley is determined to make the most of what little time they all have left together. With the help of her longtime crush, she’s going to make sure that none of them will ever forget the last days of Aberdeen.
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