Tag Archives: Love – Fiction.

Poison’s Kiss

Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields, Random House, 2017. ISBN: 9781101937822. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Imagine being tossed away by your parents, living in an orphanage as a very small child. How would you feel? Wouldn’t you attach yourself to someone, anyone who showed you the slightest bit of attention? This is what happened to Marinda. Her life became immensely complicated not long after. She was subjected to endless snake bites on her wrists and ankles, each one heightening her own poisonous, to a point where she become a Visha Kanya, lethal servant of the Raj, able to kill with a kiss.

By the time she realizes the web of control around her, it’s too late because her controller, Gopal, has brought her baby brother to her and every time she tries to rebel, Gopal threatens little Mani. His control only strengthens the one time she tries to run away and now Mani pays a daily price that forces Marinda to kill even though she’s seen things that start her down the path of doubt.

When she’s ordered to kill Deven, a boy she knows through his friendship with the owner of a bookshop she works in part time, that ramps up her questioning of the whole ‘I’m killing bad guys for good causes’ ethos because she knows he’s a very kind and caring boy.

Her doubt sets in motion a series of events that put her in serious peril, Mani in equal peril, costs the life of a friend and land her in prison. Teen lovers of myth-related fiction will follow Marinda, Mani and Deven as their paths cross on the way to solving the mystery of who she’s really been working for as an assassin and how she can free herself and her brother from such a scary and cruel life. The book ends in a satisfying ambivalence…Readers can imagine what happens next, or wait for what I hope is a sequel. In either case they won’t feel cheated. It’s an excellent choice for school and public library collections. The author’s notes at the end explaining where the idea for this story came from and how she developed it are enlightening.


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Filed under Fantasy, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

My Unscripted Life

My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill, Delacorte Press, 2016. ISBN: 9780553498011. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Dee Wilkie is bummed. She had her sights set on attending the Georgia Governor’s Honor School on the art track, but got denied admission. Now she’s faced with the possibility of grunt work, filing transcripts in the admissions officeat the university where her dad teaches, while her best friend does get away and attend the STEM track at the summer honors school.

They’re sitting outside the coffee shop in their small town when a fancy car pulls up and a man asks them for directions. Dee’s life is about to do a 180. The man is Robert Lewin and has come to their town to direct an indie film. When he mentions the possibility of a job as a personal assistant on the set, Dee and her bestie are skeptical, wondering who would film in their town? When they hear that Milo Ritter, a teen singer they both used to idolize when they were younger, will be the male lead, Dee’s interest spikes. Maybe her summer won’t be so dreary after all.

At first it seems that Milo is the stereotypical famous jerk, but as Dee sees him in unguarded moments and starts getting more into her job, most of which involves making certain the right props are on set and returned to the correct location after use, the more she starts to think there’s a real human hiding under his facade. When they begin talking after a day of filming, that suspicion is reinforced.

What follows is a light and feel-good teen romance. Unlike others with this theme, I was pleasantly surprised at how the author brought Dee’s art skills into the mix as a real strength and ran with it. Teens liking a fast, fun, sorta magical romantic read will enjoy the story a lot.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 7-9

Letters To The Lost

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer, Bloomsbury USA Childrens (April 4, 2017). ISBN: 9781681190082. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

letters to the lost

Ever heard the expression ‘frozen in grief’? That’s where Juliet finds herself. Her mother, a world class photojournalist, was killed on the way from the airport while returning from an assignment. Juliet blames herself because she was impatient and pressed Mom to get home. She’s shed friends, interests, decent grades and has become a shell. Her method of coping is to write letters and leave them by her mother’s headstone.

Declan is locked in his own grief, but deals with it by surrounding himself with a giant bubble of anger. It’s been growing and festering since his alcoholic father had an accident that killed his little sister. He blames himself for it happening. His mother divorced his dad and remarried. The relationship between them, as well as the non-relationship with his new stepfather is cold, fragile and full of friction. It hit the breaking point when Declan took his father’s truck and ran it into a building.

When he finds one of Julia’s letters during his court ordered community service while mowing the cemetery, something has him write a reply. It’s impulsive and uncharacteristic, but as the back and forth on paper continues, both feel better.

At the same time, they begin to connect at school, although neither knows that the other answers the letters. It’s not long before the soul baring goes electronic when each teen creates a new email account just to share stuff. Add in incredibly supportive friends, the ultimate disclosure about their secret connection and you have one heck of an emotional story.

This is an excellent book for all libraries to own, not only because of the quality of the story, but because it has the power to reach teens who are locked in a similar cage of grief.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Between Two Skies

Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan, Candlewick (April 25, 2017). ISBN: 9780763690342. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

between two skies

Evangeline Riley is mostly satisfied with her life in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. Granted, her older sister is irritating and tends to shirk her way out of chores, but Ev, as she’s sometimes called, can take her small boat into the bayous and get lost while fishing among the birds to feel a sense of place and peace. She also has her father and often helps out on their shrimp boat. Then, there’s her beloved grandmother or Mamere, who is loving, wise and laid back.

Despite it not really being her thing, she’s about to become Fleet Queen as well as celebrating her sixteenth birthday. Even better, she escapes when the festivities get to be a bit too much and meets Tru, a Vietnamese boy visiting cousins. He and his borrowed boat are stuck. While helping him free it, she gets to know a lot about him, including an awareness that she’s attracted.

Then Hurricane Katrina threatens, then hits Louisiana. Ev’s family takes refuge in Atlanta to ride things out, expecting to return home soon. When they realize their town has been almost completely destroyed, it’s the first of many changes to their lives.

She must adjust to a new school, her parents distance from each other, her sister’s meltdown, loss of her best friends, loss of Tru and most importantly, her whole way of life. Recovering isn’t quick or easy, but this book does a stellar job of following Ev and everyone else as they try their best to figure out what’s realistic and what’s not as they rebuild their lives.

It’s a perfect book for any and all libraries to own because of the way it shows how many ways a disaster can affect families and communities.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Optimists Die First

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen, Wendy Lamb Books (February 21, 2017), ISBN: 9780553496901. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Things can get really messed up in families that lack meaningful communication. While everything can seem functional on the surface, when a tragedy happens, everything can go off the rails quickly, leaving everyone in their own web of grief, denial, or craziness. Meet Petula De Wilde, a sixteen year old who is currently so boxed in by her phobias and trauma-induced OCD, she barely exists. When something horrible happened, she started isolating and shutting down. Several years later, she’s pushed away her best friend, can’t do a class presentation without her brain filling with so many awful possibilities that she collapses, or has an emotional meltdown and finds herself part of YART-Youth Art Therapy.

It’s an interesting group; Petula, Alonzo-talented, but shunned by his family because he came out, Koula-who struggles and frequently fails to recover from her addictions, Ivan-locked inside grief and anger because of what his mother did and the newest member, the bionic giant, Jacob.

New guy won’t let her be, hanging with her and asking questions until there’s a tiny crack that he manages to open wider and wider. His skill with a video camera and scripting is the gateway that starts Petula on a scary, scary road, one that leads through the Forest of Fear and Pain, with a side trip to betrayal, but when she (and everyone else in YART) comes out on the other side, the emotional sunshine there makes every awful, agonizing moment of the journey worth it. Too bad Jacob got lost on the journey. Want to find out why? Get the book.

This is an excellent look at how guilt and grief, especially in the absence of parental support and intervention, can chew up a teen and spit them out an emotional mess of yuk. It’s a worthwhile addition to libraries where issue-oriented fiction is an important part of the YA collection.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Diplomatic Immunity

Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton, Balzer & Bray, 2016: ISBN: 9780062368560. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


How much do we know about how a serious economic downturn or event has on kids? Unless it’s happened to you, I doubt you have given it much thought. As someone who experienced it in my early adolescent years, I can tell you the images and how I felt are as strong 50 years later as they were when it happened.

This is one of two driving forces in Piper Baird’s life. Her dad lost almost everything in a failed tech startup and now does shift work for a power company. Even with Mom working nights at a bakery, finances are beyond tight. Her dream of a journalistic career and even a college education are dimming. When she gets a last minute scholarship to the exclusive Chiswick Academy which will give her a shot at the Bennington Scholarship (a full ride to a top journalism school), it’s exciting, but scary. Many of the students come from international diplomatic families and except for a very few scholarship kids like her, they’re rich and privileged.

All these challenges have her both a bit defiant, pretty anxious and very determined to succeed. The first student she meets is Rafael Amador, son of the Spanish Ambassador. Sparks of various kinds fly at their first meeting which involves embarrassment a swatch of duct tape and her realization of just how huge a gap exists between her and the non-scholarship kids

What follows includes budding attraction, foolish decisions, the possibility of family bankruptcy, disaster and a happy ending, all fun to follow. Read the book and find out what these all mean.

Caveat: I read primarily for enjoyment and review to share my likes and insights with others. If a book is hard to put down (and this was) it’s a winner in my opinion.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9