Sugar Lump by Megan Gaudino


Sugar Lump by Megan Gaudino
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (209 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Seventeen-year-old travel blogger CC is stuck on a never-ending road trip with her wanderlust-addicted father. When her dad lands the job of his dreams in Sugar Lump—wedding capital of the world—CC finally finds a place to call home. Complete with two quirky best friends and a quixotic guy to crush on, Sugar Lump is more shades of perfect than she can possibly count. But when CC accidentally overhears the mayor complaining that she has to “take out” a rogue employee for not fulfilling the terms of his contract, the idyllic town’s facade crumbles. Devastated by the possibility of having to move yet again, CC discovers everyone has been keeping a massive secret from her—including her own father.

Many communities have secrets, but most of them aren’t quite as big as the ones hidden in Sugar Lump.

The town of Sugar Lump honestly sounded like the perfect place to live when I was first introduced to it. I adored how friendly and helpful everyone was, especially when it came to helping new residents settle in and figure out all of the little quirks that make every community unique. This kind of genuine hospitality only made the events later on in this tale even more unsettling than they would have otherwise been.

It took a very long time for the plot to develop past the point of introducing the characters and exploring the idyllic community they seemed to be living in. As much as I liked getting to know CC and her friends, it wasn’t easy to stay interested in what was happening to them because of how slowly everything was moving. I started reading with the expectation that I’d love this book, so I was surprised and disappointed by how much I had to struggle to keep reading it.

CC was an interesting girl. I liked the fact that she was so oblivious to the thought that something odd might be happening in the town she’d just moved to. While there were definitely times when I wanted to text her and ask her how in the world she could accept everything she heard and saw without questioning it, this part of her personality wasn’t something that she could easily change. Her sometimes naive approach to life did have its endearing side.

Sugar Lump should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a slow-burning mystery.

What Time Is It There? by Christine Potter


What Time Is It There? by Christine Potter
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (167 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

Just over a year ago, Bean and Zak headed for colleges two thousand miles apart, promising to write, but to see other people … until Bean fell for the wrong guy and Zak fell off the planet. Now, Bean’s got two weeks’ worth of Zak’s year-old letters that she still can’t bear to open—and a broken heart. Her new best friend, a guy named Amp, wants her to read the letters and be done with it, but he may have his own reasons for that. When Sam shows up at Bean’s school unexpectedly and Bean tumbles into the 19th century from the cellar of a ruined church, things start making a bizarre kind of sense. That is, if she can just fit all the pieces together again…

On the surface Bean seems like an ordinary college girl, but she has a secret. She can travel in time. During her first year in college new events and people make Bean forget the love of her life and now she regrets it. Unfortunately Zak has now disappeared, although she sees him when she travels.

I found this story fascinating. What at first seems to be a straightforward tale of time travel turns out to be far more sinister. I love the way Bean’s friends play a major part in the story, those from her past and the present. From day to day events, to Thanksgiving and Christmas I followed Bean and her friends as they tried to work out where they were going with their lives. Bean has the added problem of where is Zak?

A good story, a little slow at first, but intriguing and fast paced once it gets going.

The Last First Daughter by Abbie Fine


The Last First Daughter by Abbie Fine
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (262 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Lindy is the only surviving member of the First Family.

During the first television broadcast in a decade, direct from the White House, terrorists attack. Eighteen-year-old Lindy escapes thanks to her secret service officer, Henry, and now finds her country under the control of a cruel, oppressive regime—and she and Henry the targets of a countrywide manhunt.

Using fake identities and Lindy’s engineering skills, which allow her to build a network of radios, Lindy and Henry join a group planning to fight back against the new regime. Lindy must decide if she can sacrifice the relationship closest to her heart, her safety, and possibly her life to give millions of others hope for their future, and take back the White House.

The only way to stay alive is to keep running.

One of the things I liked the most about this book was how much common sense all of the characters had. When they were in dangerous circumstances they paid close attention to their surroundings and took all of the precautions they could to stay safe. This is something I always enjoy finding when I’m reading about people who live in places where there’s no such thing as a hospital or police station in every community anymore. I would be cautious in that kind of environment, so it’s nice to read about characters who take the same sensible approach.

The romantic subplot felt completely out of place to me. There were so many serious and time-sensitive things going on in Lindy’s life that I really didn’t understand why she was spending so much energy on her crush. This behavior didn’t fit her personality, and it also felt odd in a plot that was so full of other conflicts. While I liked the idea of these characters eventually exploring the possibility of a relationship, it would have worked better in a sequel that didn’t have so many other storylines happening simultaneously.

Lindy was a brave and resourceful young woman. The world she lived in was a dangerous one, and she knew just how quickly things could go terribly wrong for her if she made the wrong move. I really liked seeing her adjust from life as the sheltered daughter of a world leader to the one she lead as someone who was always on the run. She handled that transition really well.

There were pacing issues. This was something I noticed most heavily in the middle of this story. Lindy and Henry spent so much time planning their next move in that section that I had trouble keeping up my interest in what would happen to them next. As much as I liked seeing how seriously they took the various steps in their mission, I would have preferred to see them begin to carry them out much more quickly than they did.

With that being said, the world building was well done. I was especially interested in the scenes that talked about how ordinary people survived after they realized they could no longer count on the government for any kind of help at all. Farming is a difficult profession, and the narrator got that point across nicely while also showing the upside of people being required to grow or trade for everything they needed.

I’d recommend The Last First Daughter to anyone who is looking for romantic science fiction.

Neutral Shades by Xondra Day


Neutral Shades by Xondra Day
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (81 pages)
Age Recommendation:16+
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Forced to move and change schools just before his senior year, Greg Reese thinks his life is over until he meets handsome jock, Nick Anderson who is his dream guy in every way.

Sparks fly between the two, but neither are out. When they’re caught in a compromising situation, Greg quickly finds himself dumped.

Moving on isn’t easy, but starting a summer job helps keep a devastated Greg occupied, along with forming a friendship with humorous and cute co-worker, Chris.

Chris is out and makes no bones about it. Greg has an instant attraction to Chris, and coming out now seems to be an option. After all, you can’t hide forever, right?

It’s never easy to move to a small town. This is even more true for gay teens who don’t know anyone in their new community.

Greg was a three-dimensional protagonist who I came to like quite a bit. His impulsiveness and restlessness sometimes got him into trouble, but it also made him an incredibly interesting guy because of how self-aware he was of his flaws. He was always the kind of person who acknowledged his own weaknesses even if he wasn’t necessarily sure how to improve them. This is the kind of character development that makes me wish for a sequel!

I would have liked to see more details included in this story. Everything from the physical descriptions of the characters to what the buildings they spent their time in looked like were described so briefly that I had a hard time imagining what everyone looked like and what was happening. This was a little disappointing since the plot itself was so well done. Had more time been taken to describe the settings and characters, I would have happily chosen a much higher rating.

The romance was handled beautifully. I loved seeing Chris and Greg get to know each other. They had a lot of shared interested and similar personality traits. It seemed to me like they’d be a great match. The fact that they waited a while before acting on their attractions only made me more curious to find out if the sparks between them were going to lead to anything longterm.

Neutral Shades is a good read for anyone who is looking for something romantic.

Flux by Lucas Pederson


Flux by Lucas Pederson
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (190 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Bullied teenager Addy Decker has had enough of her miserable life. One night, just as she’s about to end it all, a beautiful boy appears in her bathroom, saving her life. At once intrigued and a little scared, she touches the boy and he opens her eyes to a whole different way of life. Addy finds herself in the presence of the Jaunters, a group of people on a mission to magically time travel to the past and save people at risk, as every life saved brings new life to the dead world of the future. Addy is still wrapping her head around it all when her mom is attacked by a Hell Hound. Alongside her new companions, Addy jaunts to save her, but one of them disappears with Addy’s mom to an unknown destination. Now it’s a race against time, in every dimension, to find the rogue Hell Hound, and Addy’s mom, before a plague is unleashed that will infect the fabric of history itself.

This is an unusual book with an involved story about a young girl who is about to take her own life when a boy arrives in her bathroom to stop her. The second time this happens she follows the boy to a place in the future where young people try to stop evil taking over the world and destroying it.

The girl, Addy, is a strange girl, a mixture of her background and the curves life has thrown at her. Intrigued by the future she still longs to go home.

I’m sure the author knew exactly what was happening, but I have to admit I found this story really difficult to follow. Even though I read through to the end I’m still not sure of the point of the story.

I’ve no doubt other readers will find some depth to the book, indeed I hope they do as the actual writing and grammar was excellent.

See by Lee Ann Ward


See by Lee Ann Ward
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (221 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 star
Review by: Orchid

Carlie Henson is pretty, popular, and an All-American girl. She has a gorgeous boyfriend and a mother who lives to keep her safe. Probably because everyone is drawn to Carlie…including the murderers she has the ability to identify when she looks in the eyes of their victims. Keeping Carlie’s secret is pretty simple when all she has to do is avoid dead people. But when a cheerleader at her high school is murdered and the killer seems to have gotten away with it, Carlie knows what she has to do. With the help of her boyfriend, Dillon, she devises a plan to see what she must, no matter her personal safety. But when Dillon is the one who’s injured in the showdown with the killer, Carlie vows to never help anyone again…until the next young woman attacked is her best friend, Jenna.

A nice, scary story which had me sitting on the edge of my seat wondering whether Carlie would survive her psychic abilities. How does an almost sixteen year old cope with being able to see a murderers face in the eyes of his victim? Scary enough, but the murderer is also drawn to her by some sort of psychic link.

I liked the way Carlie’s life carried on despite her need to either hide her abilities or put them to good use. Despite telling her boyfriend Dillon she will not lie to him, she does and justifies it by saying it’s for the best, but then has to face the consequences.

The author paints a great character picture of Carlie and Dillon, plus her new friend Jenna. The story has a nice balance between the normal life of a teenager who’s trying to come to terms with her parents divorce, and wanting to help with the nastiness that’s going on around her.

I have to admit, at first I didn’t think I’d like this story, but as I got further into the book it hooked me, making me want to find out what happened next. Good book, satisfying ending and well written.

Stumped by Kate Larkindale


Stumped by Kate Larkindale
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (246 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

BoM LASR YA copy

Seventeen-year-old Ozzy has a super-hot girlfriend who’s ready to take their relationship to the next level. Tonight. At the lake. But a missing condom scuttles his plans for seduction. Furious, Ozzy takes his girlfriend home and drives off—into the path of an oncoming truck. He wakes up with both legs amputated above the knees. When his girlfriend runs out gagging after one look at him, Ozzy knows he’s a hideous freak. He’s convinced he’s blown any chance of having a real relationship with a girl. Determined to prove he can still be a man despite his disability, Ozzy throws himself into dumping his virginity, but finds there’s a limited number of people willing to touch legless dudes in wheelchairs. His obsession takes him into an underworld of brothels and escort services where he discovers the difference between sex and intimacy, and that sometimes the price is much higher than a sex worker’s fee.

The only thing more troublesome to Ozzy than losing his legs is how many times he’s tried and failed to lose his virginity.

Ozzy’s character development was fantastic. His sarcastic response to his accident was funny, but it was also completely believable. He’d suffered a huge loss at a time when he wasn’t at all emotionally prepared to deal with the his disability or how his life was going to change now that he had two amputated limbs. While he definitely had his fair share of flaws, I soon came to love Ozzy’s boldly honest and complex personality.

My only criticism has to do with the descriptions of the many secondary characters that were introduced during the course of the plot. I got to know Ozzy’s mom and siblings pretty well, but there were so many other people who moved in and out of his life that it was hard at times to remember who everyone was, how they were connected to him, and what they looked like. Had there been a smaller cast, I would have chosen a much higher rating for this tale as I loved everything else about it.

As I hinted at earlier in this review, this story was quite humorous. It dealt with so many difficult topics that the last thing I ever expected to do while I was reading it was to start laughing. I was pleasantly surprised the first time it made me chuckle, and I was even happier when this trend continued up until the very last scene.

Stumped was a hilarious and thought-provoking book that I’d recommend to anyone who has ever dealt with serious medical problems or wondered what it would be like to go through that sort of experience.

Eleven Dancing Sisters by Melody Wiklund


Eleven Dancing Sisters by Melody Wiklund
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (218 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Erin has a good reason for sneaking into a fae castle: her sisters—princesses of Erdhea—have been secretly visiting it for months, and she just knows they’re in trouble. Unfortunately that’s not an excuse she can give fae lord Desmond when she gets caught. Because Erin is a princess too, and whatever schemes Desmond has, Erin wants no part of them. Instead, she tells him she’s a simple war nurse, and offers no excuse at all.

Desmond can’t have humans wandering in and out of his castle, not when the Fae’s presence in Erdhea must remain hidden. He needs to know how and why Erin sneaked in. But before long, his concerns about Erin are blooming into interest, then fascination, then something else altogether. Under the eye of a lovelorn fae lord, can Erin keep her secrets? Will she even want to?

The eleven dancing sisters are princesses, but in actual fact there are twelve of them. Patience, who now goes by the name of Erin, ran away from home three years ago to be a nurse in the war. On her return nobody recognizes her due to the horrendous burns to her face and body and the lack of one eye.

This is an intriguing story with the princesses going into the fae realm of Lord Desmond Tyraene. Erin has a cloak to make her invisible and follows them.

Erin is a very strong character but the only way I could believe her sisters didn’t recognize her was due to not expecting to see her in the fae realm. I would have thought the way she spoke or moved would have been a clue to her identity. Plus the reason for her sisters to make a bargain with the fae lord was not a forceful enough temptation.

The story was well written with a strong plot but at times my belief was stretched as the story weakened at times before picking up again. I enjoyed the book and would read another by this author as despite the above, it was pleasant to read.

An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale

An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (232 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Stargazer

When your whole world is falling apart, what are the chances you’ll find love in the most unexpected of places?

Livvie feels like she’s losing everything: her two best friends have abandoned her for their boyfriends, her mother continues to ignore her, while her sister, Jules, is sick again and getting worse by the day. Add in the request Jules has made of her and Livvie feels like she’s losing her mind, too.

Her only escape is in the art room, where she discovers not only a refuge from her life, but also a kindred soul in Bianca, the school “freak”. Livvie’s always felt invisible, at school and at home, but with Bianca, she finally feels like someone sees the real Livvie. As the relationship deepens and it comes time to take the romance public, will Livvie be able to take that step?

Livvie’s about to find out if she has what it takes to make the tough decisions and stand up for herself—for the first time in her life.

How far can you be pushed before you give up your quiet life and take a stand?

An Unstill Life is a deep journey into the life of Livvie, a fifteen-year-old girl with more than her share of life’s problems. Her sister Jules is sick with cancer and Livvie’s mother is preoccupied with the medical diagnosis. Hannah and Mel are Livvie’s two best friends, but boys become the major obstacle and distraction that tears the three apart. Livvie finds herself isolated and overwhelmed with everything going on.

An Unstill Life is a perfect view of how fast everything can spiral out of control. Kate Larkindale balances difficult topics with true to life emotions. The descriptions of events, emotions and reactions that each character has is directly on point and plays out smoothly within the situations presented. Issues of bullying, discrimination and even deep rooted domestic frustrations are cleanly addressed in an honest way.

The story, while told from the point of view of Livvie, really is something that could happen in most families. Events from both home and school are intricately interwoven to provide a great immersive plot that draws the reader in and makes it difficult to put the books down. Each event that piles onto Livvie’s daily life, is reflected in the change to her personality. The author takes great care in showing the transition and shifting of Livvie’s personality throughout the pressure, frustration and difficulties that she endures.

The dialog between characters is strong and flows naturally. Each character has a strong back story that unfolds throughout the story, including the mysterious Bianca. Each secondary character has strong personality development throughout the story as well, showing a depth to the storytelling that Kate exhibits.

If you enjoy an enveloping psychological look at life and how fast things change to shape and mold who we are-make sure you don’t miss An Unstill Life.

Topaz Reign by Teresa Richards


Topaz Reign by Teresa Richards
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (286 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: Best Book
Review by: Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

Fairy tales are simply tales, told and re-told, but changed over time. It has been four months since Maggie learned the dark truth behind the tale of the Princess and the Pea and freed Princess Lindy from the cursed Emerald. Lindy is now back in the past where she belongs, queen of her tiny Scandinavian country, and Maggie is a fully reformed ex-stalker. Except … she can’t stop doing internet searches on Lindy and her country. One morning, Maggie wakes to find history turned on its head. Apparently, you can’t destroy a centuries-old curse without consequence. In order to prevent the changes in history from wiping out the present, Maggie resurrects her stalking gene and learns that fairy tales don’t stay dead for long. Or at all. Back in 1623, Lindy is juggling a threat to her family, a handsome new guard she’s not supposed to have feelings for, and a cursed Topaz with ties to the tale of Thumbelina. When past and present collide, Lindy and Maggie are brought together again, and another of Andersen’s tales turns from twisted fiction to chilling fact.

Welcome to Valestenia, a 17th century country on the tip of modern-day Sweden. Queen Shalyndria has been kept in slavery for four hundred years, but now she has returned to her own time and finds herself thrust onto the throne.

Maggie is a present day teenager who had a hand in releasing the Queen from slavery. Shalyndria’s brother, Garon, has come forward in time as he and Maggie have fallen in love.

When Maggie’s computer shows an ever changing history to what she knows to be true, Garon returns to the 17th century to put things right. When he doesn’t return Maggie and her brother Tanner search for Garon and find a way to travel to the past to help.

This book is full of present day travels, historical problems needing to be put right, and the best thing of all – Magic! The characters could be the kids next door, while the new Queen shows the uncertainty of one thrust into the limelight of ruling a country. Even the fantasy characters had me looking over my shoulder to make sure they weren’t real and creeping up on me.

This book is a true fantasy novel. No goblins and elves, or dragons and fairies, this is magic as used by real people (well real in the book) and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Brilliant book. Exceptionally good story. A must read.