Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (331 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Teen Genius (and Hermit) Carrie Pilby’s To-Do List:

1. List 10 things you love (and DO THEM!)

2. Join a club (and TALK TO PEOPLE!)

3. Go on a date (with someone you actually LIKE!)

4. Tell someone you care (your therapist DOESN’T COUNT!)

5. Celebrate New Year’s (with OTHER PEOPLE!)

Seriously? Carrie would rather stay in bed than deal with the immoral, sex-obsessed hypocrites who seem to overrun her hometown, New York City. She’s sick of trying to be like everybody else. She isn’t! But when her own therapist gives her a five-point plan to change her social-outcast status, Carrie takes a hard look at herself—and agrees to try.

Suddenly the world doesn’t seem so bad. But is prodigy Carrie really going to dumb things down just to fit in?

Carrie Pilby, a nineteen-year-old prodigy and Harvard graduate, is socially awkward and having a very hard time meeting people that she can befriend or even relate to on a basic level. She consistently looks down on others when they come across as hypocrites based on her moral code or unintelligent based on her search for fellow genius’.

At first I hard a very hard time getting into the book, because I found Carrie annoying with her constant judgment of others. She has strict ideals of what people should be like and when someone fails to follow her holier-than-thou code, she judges them instantly and puts them in the immoral/hypocrite pile never be spoken to again.

After you reach the middle of the book, Carrie soars! The one thing that made me continue reading was the list that her psychiatrist, Dr. Petrov, makes for her to complete. I was intrigued by the list and wanted to see If she could overcome her outcast status and finally make some friends.

1. List 10 things you love (and DO THEM!)
2. Join a club (and TALK TO PEOPLE!)
3. Go on a date (with someone you actually LIKE!)
4. Tell someone you care (your therapist DOESN’T COUNT!)
5. Celebrate New Year’s (with OTHER PEOPLE!)

Following Carrie through the list is the fun part. She finally learns to just try things and that everything isn’t truly black and white or good and bad, that there are things she can experience that don’t completely break her code. I think the most interesting things to see her try are; joining a church because she feels she can expose them as a cult and she finally gets a temp job where she meets people that accept her for her intelligence and unorthodox behavior.

In the end, following Carrie through her self discovery is amusing and intriguing. She is witty, sarcastic and charming in her social awkwardness. I think in the end you will fall in love with her quirkiness – I know I did.

I think Carrie grew up too fast and was too serious about life at a young age, so she did not have the same youthful experiences that others her age have had. Once she finally works on this list, she truly sees what is it like to live. And well, her Dad was right, “You’re cursed. Cursed with a mind. Use it. Don’t fear it. But don’t let all of your thinking destroy you.”

Moonstone by Marilee Brothers


Moonstone by Marilee Brothers
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Genre: Paranormal
Length: Short Story (120 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Wry, compelling, heart-warming and just plain fun. Allie Emerson is living in a twenty-four foot trailer with a mother who has decided to Retire From Life. Not exactly the sort of environment you’d expect to produce a girl destined to save the world. Allie’s barely managing to survive high school. She hasn’t got time to believe in prophecies and evil. Until evil makes it personal.

Moonstone, the first in a series of three YA novels is a fun and quirky jaunt that starts off with sparks and offers a whole different perspective on being ‘different’ in high school. Allie, our main character, is immediately likable. I’m not sure if it’s her tough situation, her conversational style, or her always semi-humorous response to the frequently off-kilter events in her life. She never fails to learn from her misadventures (like never wear flipflops on an aluminum ladder.) Sometimes, she makes goofy decisions or takes forever to realize something we long since suspected, but she’s always honest about how she sees things.

She’s often annoyed with her mother (Faye) and so are we! Allie is the sensible adult of the pair, and we can’t help wishing she could be the kid at times. She kicks off a somewhat weird relationship with Trilby too, who just shows up out of thin air. Well – to be honest, Allie has on odd relationship with pretty much everyone. Her friends are perfectly willing to believe in the paranormal (would love to meet a vampire,) but she doubts their capacity to believe in her guardian angel.

Kizzy, her pal the elderly gypsy-slash-witch, helps her identify her unusual abilities in a way I think anyone would question a bit more than Allie does, but there it is. If you haven’t much tolerance for magic and the second sight (or the third eye, or the power of suggestion) this book may not be for you. One crush (that might or might not lead to something meaningful) and the High School bully all help to round out a cast of all slightly-unusual personalities.

The rural atmosphere provides a fun background which comes so clearly through when poor Allie has to avoid the cow patties as she plunges off the roof, and has an obsession with garden-fresh produce. Author Marilee Brothers tells us this is a small town — and then she very believably creates Peacock Flats. And more importantly, she creates Peacock Flats High School and its population: the all too believable high school social scene. Throughout, the setting is clearly there and occasionally humorous, but never intrusive, and never slows the fast paced story line.

Everything about this story is funny and unexpected; from Allie herself to all the events that surprise her. Life is never boring for Allie, and so this tale never suffers one dull moment. It does require a willingness to believe in magic in a world trying desperately to be everyday: it all lends to the overall charm.

The most appealing part of this work is Allie herself, her take on the world, and her usually positive approach to problems. Do read.

The Fallen by Thomas Sniegoski

The Fallen (The Fallen and Leviathan) by Thomas Sniegoski
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (544 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Tiger Lily

On his eighteenth birthday, Aaron begins to hear strange voices and is convinced he is going insane. But having moved from foster home to foster home, Aaron doesn’t know whom he can trust. He wants to confide in the cute girl from class, but fears she’ll confirm he’s crazy.

Then a mysterious man begins following Aaron. He knows about Aaron’s troubled past and his new powers. And he has a message for Aaron: As the son of a mortal and an angel, Aaron has been chosen to redeem the Fallen.

Aaron tries to dismiss the news and resists his supernatural abilities. But he must accept his newfound heritage — and quickly. For the dark powers are gaining strength, and are hell-bent on destroying him….

What’s better than a guy with a beautiful set of wings? When he knows how to use them.

When I picked up this book (which is really two, but they flow so well together, I forgot it was two), I broke a cardinal rule. I liked the cover. But I have to say, that it was worth it. I don’t read a ton of YA, but this one was indeed cool. Fallen angels, demons, and the ability to speak to animals (or at least understand them); caught my attention from page one. I felt like I was there with Aaron, learning about his heritage, and coming to terms with what he is, the son of a fallen angel and a human female.

This book was hard to put down. Why? It moves at a nice, brisk pace and there are plenty of little details that correlate (sort of) to The Bible. It was rather fun to try to figure out how the main players were manipulated to create this story, and it was totally worth the read.

Aaron, even though he’s not a typical teen, is a good teen for others to read about. Talk about angst. Yeah, the guy has issues. Girls, who he is, frustration, it’s all here, but with a great paranormal twist. I loved his dog, Gabriel. He’s got the best lines. What got to be a bit troubling was the heavy-handed use of passive voice. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t really in Aaron’s point of view where it would’ve been better to be. Still, it wasn’t enough to detract from the story and make me not want to continue.

I’m glad I read this book. If you want a paranormal that’s a little off the beaten path, then pick up a copy of The Fallen. I give it 4.5 suns.

Struck by Conscience by C.K Green

Struck by Conscience by C.K Green
Publisher: Whimsical Publications
Genre: Contemporary, Sci Fi/Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Short Story (48 pgs)
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Forsythia

I, Charisma Mansfield, do solemnly swear that… I never asked to be popular. I never asked to be voted Prom Queen. I definitely never asked to have an invisible pixie perched on my shoulder whispering her opinions into my ear 24/7. But of all the things I never asked for, this is the worst one yet—when brooding but gorgeous Heath Ruvelas (my next door neighbor and the guy I used to be best friends with before jr. high) rescued me from drowning in the school pool. My already bizarre life would never be the same.

When life flashes before your eyes, what do you hope to see? C.K. Green’s Struck by Conscience really makes you wonder this very question in the first pages of her book. Charisma Mansfield isn’t your ordinary teenager. Not only does her life take a different turn after she nearly drowned in a pool, she also carries around a little sprite on her shoulder named Dahlia since as far back as she can remember. Although that sounds a little far-fetched, Charisma (Risa for short) seems to be a very genuine and strong character. For a short story she is definitely one of the best written characters I’ve seen in a while. Green’s writing helps you get to know Risa and feel everything the character is feeling.

Risa’s life came into prospective when she almost drowned in her school gym’s swimming pool. As her life flashed before her eyes it seemed so unexciting and mundane! Sure, she was the popular girl in school and every girl wished to be her. She was voted homecoming and prom queen and had her token popular boyfriend at her side. Was this what she really wanted? Why didn’t her boyfriend jump in after her? Why was it her childhood friend that she traded in for popularity helped her instead? Now her feelings toward everything started shifting gears. Luckily, she had her little sprite to help her make some decisions.

My favorite thing about this story was the fact that what most teenage girls strive for wasn’t what Risa wanted and it made her such a strong character. Torn between life changing moments, confused feelings of love and loss from what she’s been so used to, C.K. Green makes Risa feel so real to the reader. The things people might think are important really aren’t what defines you as a person. When life takes you to a cross road which road will you take? I think Ms. Green wrote a great heart felt story with little whimsical twists following Risa around. Hopefully, there will be more of Risa and Dahlia to look forward to in the future. It really was an impressive coming-of-age story. It made this reader fall into the story from the moment Risa fell into that pool.

Suspect by Kristin Wolden Nite

Suspect by Kristin Wolden Nite
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Aloe

This well-plotted whodunit will hook readers from the start and keep them reading until the surprising solution is revealed.

Seventeen-year-old Jen is scheduled to spend a thrilling summer helping Grandma Kay run the Schoenhaus, a Victorian bed and breakfast in the Missouri vineyards. But Grandma Kay’s plans include a lot more than housekeeping. She intends to solve a real mystery from the past involving the disappearance of a beautiful and accomplished young woman.

And the victim was Jen’s own mother.

Ellen disappeared without a trace when her daughter was still young. For years, Jen received holiday gifts in the mail and letters signed by her mother. But then the communication abruptly stopped. Now Grandma Kay is convinced the letters were forged and that her daughter-in-law was murdered.

The stage is set for an elaborate Mystery Weekend at the inn. Family members and friends—including Jen’s very recent ex-boyfriend, her old childhood crush and his insufferable girlfriend—assemble and are assigned roles to play. But as the drama unfolds, Jen makes an important off-stage discovery in the Schoenhaus library. Soon her worst suspicions are aroused: Could a member of her own close-knit family be responsible for her mother’s disappearance?

Jen’s mother left her when she was very young. No one knew where she went or why, but Jen wanted to believe she was still alive. After all, she still sent her letters and presents for a long time. She couldn’t be dead, could she?

Ms. Nite’s characters are very realistic. They have all the idiosyncrasies of people here in the real world – there are different beliefs about Ellen being missing, and Jen’s boyfriend has just broken up with her.

The author picks a unique setting for her mystery: Schoenhaus, a Victorian bed-and-breakfast that belongs to Jen’s grandmother. Then she adds one more fascinating component to the story: a Mystery Weekend with handpicked guests. This combination works very well and adds a sense of mystery woven within mystery because you can’t be sure who is just playing their part and who might very well be a killer. The romantic love interest in the book adds a little spice while you wonder just who Jen is going to choose.

The story moves well, keeps you reading and has a complex plot that doesn’t give away any answers until the very end. I enjoy reading mysteries that have a well thought out plot, and this one delivered. The clues are slow to come and you aren’t really sure what they are telling you. And when Jen plays the part of her mother on the mystery weekend, the suspense kicks up a notch. If her mother is dead, is the killer someone she knows? Is the killer there that night?

This well written mystery has a strong female character in Jen, and while it reads fast because it’s fun to read, you’ll be pleased you took the time to check it out. Let me know if you figure out the plot before the ending, because I sure didn’t.

Fat Hoochie Prom Queen by Nico Medina

Fat Hoochie Prom Queen by Nico Medina
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (290 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Tiger Lily

What does it take to be the queen?

Margarita “Madge” Diaz is fat, foxy, and fabulous. She loves herself, and is adored by almost everyone else…except queen bee/student-body president Bridget Benson. These two girls have a history that’s uglier than a drag queen after last call. During a heated argument, they decide there’s only one way to end their rivalry: be named prom queen and the other backs off — for good.

Of course, everything looks different in the sober light of morning, but pride is at stake and the race is on. Madge is committed to doing whatever it takes to secure the title, but so is Bridget. And everyone’s got something to hide.

Welcome to Winter Park High School, where the dirt’s not just gonna fly…it’s gonna go into freakin’ orbit.

The book had me laughing from the moment I saw it on the shelf. What a great title! I knew I had to pick it up and trust me, I wasn’t disappointed. The characters felt like my friends and it was like I was back in high school for a while. I laughed, I cried, and I read it over again.

Oh yeah, and I rooted for Margarita.

High school is one gigantic drama and hotbed for issues. Once best friends become mortal enemies and then one day poof! become besties again. Not always the case, but stranger things have been known to happen. Nico Medina’s characters are the best and worst of high school and written in a fresh manner that I couldn’t put the book down. Although this is a follow-up story, I didn’t feel I needed the first one to know what was going on. I plan to read the first one because I’ve found a new must read author.

Margarita, for all her bluster, was my favorite character. She’s flawed. She won’t admit it, but she’s not always the tower of strength and snappy comebacks she wants to be. But as seniors in high school, who is really that perfect? That’s what I liked about her. She’s unique-what you see is what you get. As she evolves in the story, you can’t help but sympathize for her more, even if she gets what she wants most of the time. I love how things all came down to a competition to be the prom queen. Isn’t it every girl’s dream to be the queen? Maybe, but seeing how Magarita goes about it had me in stitches.

If you want a book that’s a look at high school and a whole lot of laughs and a few tears, then you need to read Fat Hoochie Prom Queen. I give this book 4.5 suns! Awesome job!

Ghost Huntress 4: The Counseling by Marley Gibson

Ghost Huntress 4: The Counseling by Marley Gibson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (267 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Orchid

Kendall has just discovered who Emily really is, lost her boyfriend, and nearly died doing the thing she loves most–ghost hunting. It’s time to take a break and try to reconcile all the changes she’s going through. So Kendall heads to the Sierra Mountains, where there’s a camp especially for young people with gifts such as hers. It’s a time for reflection and self-discovery.

But when she gets to California, she once again finds restless spirits–and the boy in her last vision. It may be the end of one chapter of her life and the beginning of a new one.

How do you learn to control your psychic abilities?

Danger and problems almost swamp Kendall when she finds herself with not one, but several forms of psychic talents. Her spirit guide, also her natural mother, passes over into the light leaving Kendall floundering with her newfound skills. Her adoptive parents send her to a camp which specializes in counseling and teaching young psychics to get the best out of their abilities.

The teenagers see, hear, empathize and see the auras of people, ghosts and locations. Their abilities are incredible but none of them have any idea how to control their gifts. Only one boy stands alone. He wears a beanie, sunglasses and gloves at all times and the others think him weird, but Kendall finds him intriguing.

The story is exciting and looks at psychic abilities from the young adult point of view rather than the adult, as is usually the case. Kendall and her friends have to learn how to use their talents to the best of their abilities without letting themselves be swamped by the pleas of the ghosts and lonely spirits.

The only reason I didn’t give this book full marks was due to a few occasions where Kendall didn’t seem to get a situation which should have been perfectly obvious to her with or without the use of her talents.

Apart from this I found it a very entertaining book with hidden depths which drew me in from the beginning and made me want to carry on reading until I reached the end. I notice this is book 4 of the series. I haven’t read any of the other books but from the hints given regarding Kendall’s awakening I would love to read the previous three. This was an intriguing book I’d recommend to lovers of the paranormal.

Camp Club Girls: Mystery at Discovery Lake by Renae Brumbaugh

Camp Club Girls: Mystery at Discovery Lake by Renae Brumbaugh
Publisher: Barbour Publishing Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Inspirational, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (160 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Orchid

When six girls from different parts of the country end up as roommates at camp, they also join forces to find out what’s really going on beyond the crafts and Bible quizzing. Where are the strange noises coming from? And what’s the “DanGer” warning all about? “Camp Discovery” indeed! The mysteries seem as thick as the woods surrounding the cabins!

The excitement begins when six girls, strangers to each other, meet at a summer camp. They all have different strengths and weaknesses and form an immediate bond with each other. Their friendship is put to the test when they try to discover what is making weird noises on the run down crazy golf course. This leads to the mystery of who is digging holes and why is a member of the camp staff trying to keep them away from the golf course? Add to this a gorgeous wriggling puppy which they must keep hidden, and you have a delightful book sure to appeal to any age group.

The girls are typical pre-teens, curious about anything and everything. They can also be scared by noises and events they don’t understand, but are brave enough to investigate – as long as they don’t have to go alone.

I loved the way the different personalities all wove together. The pacifier, the gadget queen, the golfer, the performer, the horse lover and the nature lover. All their skills were put to the test as they set out to solve the mystery surrounding the golf course.

This is a lovely book, captivating enough to keep the reader wanting to find out what’s next, but without any of the bits parents often object to. The inspirational part adds a depth to the characters without making them seem like children who can do no wrong.

Camp Girls: Mystery at Discovery Lake is a book I would encourage any pre-teen child to read.

Moon Spun by Marilee Brothers

Moon Spun by Marilee Brothers
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Genre: Paranormal, Contemp
Length: Short Story (148 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Junior’s back from Mexico with his movie-star entourage. Beck’s using his half-demon charms to “heal” a new girl. Mom’s still wacky and now she’s dating Principal Hostetler. High school is still an obstacle course of drama queens, bullies and nutjobs. The Trimarks are still a menace, and the moonstone pendant has revealed even more mind-boggling powers. In other words, Allie Emerson’s life as the Girl Voted Least Likely To Save The World From Evil has gone from Weird to Super-Charged Super-Weird, and it’s about to get even weirder. You’re a faery princess. So says the mysterious Ryker, whose handsome talents include turning himself into a hawk. By the way, he and Allie are destined to marry. In faery land–Boundless. If they can save it from forces even more deadly than Trimarks and high school. The third book in the Unbidden Magic series plunges readers into a rich other-world of danger, humor, romance, fable, fairytale and magical destiny.

What could possibly be worse than not fitting in at High School? Again, Ms. Brothers has a quick answer for us: Your Mom, dating the principal of your high school. Once again, teen Allie’s everyday life problems vie with her magical world problems for overall disaster quotient.

Moon Spun kicks off with a Allie-problem that is sooo Allie: an empty underwear drawer. On the other hand, totally great things await, or maybe just possibly-great; the return of her boyfriend, Junior.

We have to start doubting Junior straightaway; only he’ll surprise us (and Allie.) He’s a surprise to that old half-demon too (and if you didn’t read book 2, you might well find yourself puzzled at this point.) Allie has enough other issues to keep us occupied than the various boyfriends or potential boyfriends; like her powers seem to go awry in funny incidents. I never could quite figure out if Allie was delighted with being the fresh fruit queen, but her wry response to so many incidents was again a delight. Dialogue is, as ever, fast paced and belieavable.

I love how Ms. Brothers maintains the rural and small-town flavor in Moon Spun. It would have been easy for me to overlook the setting here, as I’ve read the first two books of the Unbidden Magic series. Yes, we still do have the chiming apple tree and grumpy bull. The trailer Allie lives in is still twenty-four feet long. Characters are true to those we met earlier. My main complaint is that perhaps this wasn’t different enough. Nice to find Allie still sorting all this stuff out – and there is still plenty of unpredictable happenings; but the one new thing is probably the hardest to simply believe: the abrupt addition of the fairy kingdom kind of drops out of the sky. The Boundless world is also little Endless. This story is far from dull though: Moon Spun is a fast paced, fun read. Fans of the inestimable Allie will definitely enjoy this third in the series.

I do recommend reading Moonstone, first in the series, and then Moon Rise before this one.

Summer and Shiner by Nolan Carlson

Summer and Shiner by Nolan Carlson
Publisher: Vintage Reflections Publishing
Genre: action/adventure, contemporary
Length: Short Story (87 pgs)
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Tulip

Carley and Troop, blood brothers for life, spend a summer together like no other. Releasing a trapped raccoon, battling their club rivals, the Spiders, climbing Cave Springs Mountain at night, and skinny dipping in crazy old Luke Webster’s pond are just a few of their adventures. Travel back with Carley and Troop to a simpler time…a time for growing up, adventure, and fun!

School is out for the summer in Randall, Kansas. It is the late 1940’s and Carlisle “Carley” Bimberg and his best friend, pure-blood Cherokee, Bryan “Troop” Whitewater are walking through the woods. They have finished the chores for the day and are just being boys.

They encounter a racoon that is caught in a trap that was left by a careless hunter over the winter. They rescue “Shiner” and Carley makes him a pet, with permission from his parents.

Shiner is the best pet that Carley could hope for and goes with him everywhere. Shiner even sleeps with him, nestled under the covers like a small child.

Carley and Troop are co-founders of a gang called the Mustangs and are constantly butting heads with Mick and his gang, the Spiders, and Mick’s mean dog, Devil.
The boys are spending the summer doing initiations with the gang, learning about miracles that are more earthly than heavenly and forming friendships that get stronger by the day.

Nolan Carlson has written a book about a much simpler time and does a great job of placing you in that era. His description is wonderful and you are made to feel like you are there with the characters.

What really appealed to me was the part about Carley reading Moby Dick for pleasure. There are no cell phones, no internet, no TV. Just a very simple life, with maybe some radio for media.

The only issue that I have is that I have a hard time thinking that nine to twelve year olds would really relate to the story. Most kids of that age today wouldn’t fathom the simpleness of the era and the pace of life that these boys enjoy.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed the story. It made me wish for a return to a simpler existence.