Tag Archives: Romance 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

Whisper If You Need Me

Whisper If You Need Me by Dina Silver, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 12, 2015), ISBN: 9781517189082. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

whisper if

Julia Pearl has major trust issues. She’s never gotten over the awful night when her fashion model mother came home disheveled and she witnessed the shouting match resulting in her father telling her mom to leave and never return. That was five years ago and she still has no satisfactory explanation. In addition, her mother messed with her head with a constant litany of warnings about what disasters might befall Julia on a daily basis.

Her father remarried a woman who had two children younger than Julia. While she likes them, she feels distanced from them and is unable or unwilling to trust her stepmother’s attempts to connect. It didn’t help her feelings of disconnection when she had a breakdown following Mom’s exile. Julia refused to go to school, certain some dire accident would befall her on the school bus. She’s been home schooled ever since, further fueling her isolation.

This summer, however, Dad and Stepmom put their foot down and she’s going to a summer camp for several weeks. No cell phone, no calling home, nobody to run in and bail her out. She falls asleep on the bus and has to be woken by Jack, nephew of the somewhat incompetent and mean (to Jack), owner of the camp. Julia might not sense them, but sparks fly between the two immediately. Since Jack is 19 and a counselor, any fraternization between them is forbidden.

You know right from the minute Jack sees her that they’re destined to be a couple. Getting there, however involves restraint on his part, Julia deciding to explode her comfort zone and make a new friend in zany free-spirited Emma, while accepting the challenge to sleep alone in the woods as part of a special wilderness program.

Watching her grow and learn to trust people, surviving a nasty prank by a jealous rival and finally learning what happened to her mother, make this a stellar blend of romance and coming of age. It’s definitely a worthwhile addition for school and public libraries.

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Filed under Fiction, 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

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom, Poppy (February 7, 2017). ISBN: 9780316260060. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Right from the opening page, you begin wondering just what in heck happened to Mel Hannigan’s older brother Nolan. You know he’s dead and that the fallout included her parents getting divorced and she and her mother moving 100 miles away, but what really happened is dribbled into the rest of the story like sand slipping through an emotional hourglass.

Mel has bipolar disorder, the rapid cycling kind and is further afflicted with what is called Dysphoric Mania-strong depression with accompanying manic energy, a condition that can be scary and lethal. She’s just lost a year of her life, along with the three friends who saved her after the move. Her obsessive need/belief that hiding her illness is necessary in order to have any life or friends essentially cost her those friends and her rigidity surrounding her feelings toward them and her fear about coming clean, create an invisible prison that just seems to exacerbate her denial.

It isn’t until she finds a boy, David, whose grandmother is moving into the assisted living facility where she works part time and they start to connect, that the rigidity starts showing cracks. How it eventually crumbles takes readers through intense pain, a few scary situations and some teeth gritting over Mel’s refusal to let go of certain beliefs and behaviors.

The author may have tried packing too many scenes and ideas into the story, but as a former mental health professional who worked with teens, I found it a darn good read and one worth handing to young adults struggling with emotional issues or who have friends who are.

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


Sing by Vivi Greene, Harper Teen, 2016. ISBN: 9780062459831. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Lily Ross may have been successful as a pop singer, but in love, not so much. After her latest heartbreak, she decides to hide away on a small Maine island, heal her emotional wounds and work on her next album. Good plans, but we all know about making plans…They’re why God laughs a lot.

She ends up in a summer cottage owned by her good friend Tess’ dad. Healing from heartbreak can’t happen on a predictable schedule, nor can getting back on the performance horse. At first, Lily gives some serious thought to bagging her career, but enter Noel Bradley, a quiet local guy near her age. He’s safe and there’s an instant connection between them, but Lily doesn’t dare let herself feel too much, at least not at the beginning. However, small town people and Maine islands have a way of growing on you and Lily is no exception. As the summer progresses, so do her creativity, self-confidence and determination to write her new album. While things are coming together for her career, what will in terms of her heart? Read the book and find out. Teens who like a story about a likable celebrity or a good summer romance will find a lot of satisfaction in this one.

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Filed under 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