Time Between Us

9781423159568

Title: Time Between Us

Author: Tamara Ireland Stone

Release Date: Available

They shouldn’t be together. The rules of time say so. But when Bennett Cooper appears in Anna Greene’s life from out of nowhere (so it seems), she can’t make herself push him away. She lives in Evanston, Illinois in 1995. In his present, he should be in 2012, in San Francisco, California. But Bennett can travel through space, time, or both, and when he arrives in Evanston in 1995, Anna has no idea he doesn’t belong.

Anna has never traveled outside of Illinois before. In Bennett, she finds not only a gateway to the world, but also a gateway to love. However, with Bennett’s extraordinary gift comes secrets and choices, and Anna must decide if she is prepared to join him in his special yet challenging life.

This is just the simple premise of a much deeper, more intriguing book that won my interest, my emotions, and the day I spent captivated while reading it. Time Between Us combines elements of other iconic books and authors, while creating something beautifully unique. The time travel love story reminded me of The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger; the writing style and plot progression was reminiscent of Sarah Dessen’s wonderful young adult novels; and the nuanced symbols and metaphors reflected John Green. Don’t get me wrong, however – this book is entirely its own, with a distinctive, creative plot and intriguing characters.

As the story unfolds, readers connect to all the characters in the book; Anna, Bennett, Anna’s parents, Bennett’s grandmother, and Anna’s school friends are all perfectly developed. They all feel like real people, with both strengths and flaws.

Not only did I love the book, but I loved the opportunity to meet author Tamara Ireland Stone at a Book Passage event. After hearing her answer questions, I got the chance to have a chat with her about her writing. She was kind, engaging, and inspiring; it was lovely to be able to meet the creator of this wonderful book-world in real life and I was thrilled at how open and likeable she was, and how willing she was to connect with the young adult readers at the event.

Time Between Us is indeed a young adult romance novel, told from a female point of view, so I doubt it would appeal to a great variety of readers. However, for those who like romance, this is a new, fresh story that is beautiful, captivating, and thought provoking. It was one of those books that I had to read all the way through right away, because I was dying to know the ending. This is Tamara Ireland Stone’s first novel, and I was thrilled to learn she is working on her second. Time Between Us was a pleasure to read, and I encourage fans of the romance genre to give it a try! I’m certain you’ll find yourself as immersed in Anna and Bennett’s relationship as I was!

P.S. After you read the book, head over to its website for extra tidbits about Anna, Bennett, the places they travel, a book trailer, and a playlist of the music they listen to throughout the story!

And don’t forget to check out the write-up of Tamara Ireland Stone’s most recent Book Passage visit!

Review by Katie

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Falling for You

Falling for You

Title: Falling for You

Author: Lisa Schroeder

Release Date: Available

I have a thing for romance novels. They’re my weakness. I know that sometimes they can be sappy, cheesy, and completely unoriginal, but (usually) it doesn’t matter – I’ll read them anyway. However, I’ll keep in mind that the average young adult reader is probably not quite as romance-novel oriented as I am, so I’ll do my best to keep this review objective. Falling for You, by Lisa Schroeder, seemed sort of sappy, a little bit cheesy, and not completely original at the beginning. The first half of the book had me a little worried that it was going to follow exactly the same pattern as every single other romance novel that I’ve read, but I was relieved as the author began to branch out and the unique plot evolved into a wonderful, sweet, and hopeful story.

Falling for You is the story of Rae Lynch, a high school junior who lives with her hardworking but oblivious mom, and mean stepfather Dean. At the beginning of the book, Rae meets Nathan, a boy new to her school. His blunt persistence and quirky charm quickly lead Rae, although not initially a romantic person, to give him a chance. Soon, they become the school’s newest couple. But as their relationship progresses, Nathan becomes more dependent on her. He becomes jealous, clingy, and pushy, and takes out his frustration with his life at home on Rae. However, Rae has her own problems at home. Her stepfather Dean has lost his job and starts demanding that Rae give him her paychecks. Rae loves her job at Full Bloom flower shop though, so she continues working, despite having to give up her money. And as Dean grows more abusive, Rae sees some similarities between him and Nathan, two people she never thought would be comparable. When Rae starts spending more time with her homeschooled friend Leo, who works in his family’s coffee shop next door to Full Bloom, she realizes how much she enjoys her time with him, making Nathan more and more jealous.

The two types of interspersed excerpts inserted between chapters made this book even more enjoyable to read. The first type are passages titled “The Hospital.” Through these stream-of-consciousness-style snippets, we can tell that something has happened to Rae to make her wind up in the hospital. Instead of telling the story in parts, (“Part 1,” “Part 2, etc…) the book counts down how many months before (“Six months earlier,” “five months earlier,” etc…) the event that landed Rae in the hospital, each part prefaced with a short scene from the ICU. This technique makes the book more suspenseful and engaging, and readers are curious what happened to Rae and if she will be okay.

The second excerpt comes in the form of poetry. Rae is a closet poet and she expresses her feelings in her poetry journal. At the ends of certain chapters we get to read poems out of Rae’s poetry journal as she decides which to submit for her school newspaper’s poetry corner, grappling with the choice to submit anonymously or include her name with her poems. Many of her poems are poignant and emotional and it appears that Lisa Schroeder is a talented poet.

Although the beginning of the book was a little dry and unexciting, as it continued, I grew more and more interested until I didn’t want to stop reading. The book is a relatively short and easy read, and can provide a nice break from reading textbooks as school picks up again. Although it is mainly a romance, the multiple facets of Rae’s life make for a more dimensional novel, as opposed to simply a love story. I ended up liking this book much more than I initially thought I would, and I definitely encourage those who enjoy romances (and definitely fans of Sarah Dessen) to read Falling for You.

Review by Katie

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A Trick of the Light

Title: A Trick of the Light

Author: Lois Metzger

Release Date: Available

Upon beginning A Trick of the Light, Lois Metzger’s new novel, I was instantly intrigued and sucked in to the life of main character Mike Welles. Mike is a normal fifteen year old boy who plays baseball, has a best friend, and gets good grades – that is, until he is visited by a voice in his head, which appears just when his home life begins disintegrating. The voice assures Mike it will “help” him through the struggle, and Mike succumbs to the suggestions of his constant companion, believing that this voice will help him improve himself and provide a way to cope with his unpleasant situation at home.

The facet of this engaging and poignant novel that I found most interesting was the voice in which it was written. Rather than writing the story in the omniscient third person or from Mike’s point of view, Metzger’s choice for narrator is the voice inhabiting Mike’s head. This unique twist renders an eerie, mysterious tone over the book, very fitting of the feeling that will entangle in readers’ stomachs as the voice gets stronger, and the illness it promotes becomes increasingly serious.

Metzger’s novel is a moving, original exploration of a problem plaguing today’s adolescents. By making the protagonist male, readers are reminded that young men can also be plagued by issues of self-consciousness and physical insecurities. Metzger’s writing is intense, creative, and touching; it serves as a reminder of why it is important to love and take care of both one’s body and mind, and the devastating consequences that can result from listening to the negative voices in one’s head.

Review by Katie

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The Beginning of Everything

The Beginning of Everything

Title: The Beginning of Everything

Author: Robyn Schneider

Release Date: Available

So I’ve written about five beginning sentences for this review, but they’ve all contained expletives because I have such strong feelings about this book that a simple “Oh wow, it was really really excellent,” doesn’t seem to be working. So let’s just leave it at, damn. This book truly was really really excellent. My thoughts are kind of washing-machining around in my head so I’ll try to be a bit organized as I explain why everything about this book and its author is awesome.

The Beginning of Everything is told from the point of view of Ezra Faulkner; Ezra is a popular tennis player and a shoo-in for homecoming king until he gets into a car accident at a party over the summer, leaving him to begin his senior year walking with a cane and a much-diminished social standing. He starts hanging out with his old friend from middle school, who introduces Ezra to the debate team. There, Ezra gets to know Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is new to the school, but not to debate – she’s a competition pro, but she no longer wants to participate. However, when Ezra and Cassidy accidentally find themselves both signed up for a debate competition, they begin a friendship, and, eventually, a relationship.

Both Ezra and Cassidy have such complex characters; author Robyn Schneider manages to create people that seem so very real, in all of their strengths and weaknesses. Readers will like Ezra, because he recognizes that his old friends are jerks, but still feels occasional twinges of longing to be back in the coterie of popular seniors; they like Cassidy for her sharp wit and genuine enthusiasm, but get frustrated by her mysterious identity. The book culminates with a shocking twist and the unexpected ending left me so full of feelings (yes, all of the feelings). And I have to mention the awkwardness – all romantic relationships have some degree of awkwardness, and Schneider captures this perfectly. There’s this one scene… you just have to read it. I couldn’t even believe how realistically awkward it was – just excellent.

Don’t even get me started on Robyn Schneider – she is pretty much the female version of John Green. Not only does her novel have the same authenticity and original feel as all of John Green’s, incorporating romance without turning it into a romance novel, per se, but she even vlogs on YouTube (check out her channel here). Basically, she’s one of my new favorite authors and YouTubers and she’s just awesome in every way.

The Beginning of Everything is one of my new favorite books. I want to read it again and again, because it gives me something new each time. This is an absolutely amazing book, for both male and female young adult readers, especially those who like John Green. If this book was a test, it would get 101%. Please read it. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

Review by Katie

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The Stone Girl

Title: The Stone Girl

Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Release Date: Available

Sometimes, I pick up a book and start reading it. I think that it’s okay, but not great. Despite that, I won’t be able to stop reading it, and by the time I finish, I’ll realize I actually really liked it. A few days will pass, or maybe a week, and I won’t be able to get the book out of my head. That’s when I realize how much I truly enjoyed it, and how special and rare books such as these are. For me, The Stone Girl was one of these books. When I first started it, I was prepared for the typical high-school-girl-with-an-eating-disorder story. And for the first few chapters, that’s all I thought The Stone Girl was. Soon, I realized how wrong my initial impression was.

The Stone Girl is the story of high school senior Sethie Weiss. From the start of the book, the reader can tell that Sethie is conscious of how everyone else perceives her, and she’s determined to retain the status she has created for herself in her head. She is also determined to monopolize the affections of Shaw, her almost-boyfriend, as well as to keep her weight under the 111 pound limit she has set for herself. Sethie meets Janey, and although instantly jealous of Janey’s thin physique and confident attitude, the two become good friends. As the book progresses, Sethie’s weight becomes her prime concern. She begins to eat less and less, and when she eats too much, she throws up afterward. The reader sees Sethie’s relationships with Shaw, Janey, and her mother deteriorate as she becomes more obsessed with her body.

From the beginning, I was rooting for Sethie; she’s a relatable character and I think most teens (especially girls) have experienced the lack of self-confidence and insecurities about their bodies that Sethie does. Author Alyssa B. Sheinmel does a remarkable job of tying Sethie’s eating disorder to her lack of confidence and impressing upon the feelings that draw Sethie to feel the need to stay thin. Personally, when I read a book that focuses on a character with an eating disorder, I often feel detached from her, almost as if that could never be me, because I wouldn’t want to let myself become that person. The Stone Girl was different; it opened my eyes to eating disorders and made me understand so much more why someone would feel as if she had to stay thin to feel accepted and confident.

Although The Stone Girl deals with tough issues, and Sethie doesn’t always make the right choices, the book makes it clear to the reader what the right choices are, without conspicuously plastering morals on its pages. When you watch Sethie starve herself and then throw up, constantly getting thinner and more unhealthy, you’re willing her to realize she is beautiful the way she is; when you see her torn between Shaw, who couldn’t care less about his life and about Sethie’s, and Ben, the sweet, smart, and caring college student she meets at a party, you’re begging her to pick Ben.

I thought this book was wonderful, and ever since I finished it, it’s been popping up in my mind, begging me to revisit it. I’m not sure if this book would appeal to many boys, but for a female young adult (or older adult) reader, I think it’s an honest, painful, and beautiful story about an intelligent girl who gets lost in the idea that your body’s appearance defines your life. I highly recommend The Stone Girl – it’s not a particularly long or difficult read, but it is thought-provoking and enlightening. I encourage you to give it a try.

Review by Katie

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My Beautiful Failure

Title: My Beautiful Failure

Author: Janet Ruth Young

Release Date: Available

I want to start out by saying that when I picked up this book, I was expecting a typical, romantic, young adult novel geared toward the female teenage reader. Everything about the cover suggests chick-flick book, from the title, My Beautiful Failure, to the rather clichéd photo of a girl, her face half hidden with her arms, to the fact that the novel was written by a woman. My first impressions about this book couldn’t have been more wrong. I know everyone has heard, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but sometimes, when you’re quickly browsing for a good read, your eyes can’t help but skim over books that remind you of those you’ve already tried, when you’re not particularly in the mood to read something similar.

In my opinion, the cover is the worst aspect of this book. I feel as if it is going to turn away many potential readers, for various reasons, and I just want to put a sticky note on the front that says, “Give me a chance!” This book is a beautiful, powerful story about Billy Morrison, a sophomore in high school, whose father’s depression has engendered his goal of becoming a psychiatrist. When his father, who is rediscovering his passion for art, recommends Billy start his own project, Billy begins to volunteer at Listeners, a suicide hotline. One day, he answers the phone and begins talking to Jenney, a caller who, although promises she is not currently suicidal, is dealing with a lot in her life. The two have an instant connection, and due to Listeners’ anonymity policy regarding personal details, Billy and Jenney are able to get to know each other with a deeper bond than those created by unimportant details of typical relationships.

As Billy and Jenney grow closer, they tell each other more and more. Billy feels grateful that he is able to help Jenney deal with the problems in her life, while she in turns gives him advice about his father’s overly ambitious artistic goals, which Billy feels are not good for his dad’s condition. The book is told from Billy’s point of view, in over one hundred chapters, most four pages or fewer, which is a unique method of storytelling. A few chapters, whose titles begin “Last Winter,” are flashbacks to the previous winter, when Billy’s dad was dealing with the most serious phase of his depression.

This book is written simply, without too much flowery language or overused imagery. The author does a wonderful job of creating Billy’s character, and writing in what is undoubtedly his voice, which makes the journey into Billy’s world incredibly real. Janet Ruth Young has written a poignant story that I think male and female readers of all ages will appreciate. It is both humorous and heart wrenching, sweet and horrifying, and a book that truly stays with you long after you finish the last page. I certainly recommend every young adult reader to ignore any initial judgments and at least give this book a try; it is easy to read, but deals with important issues in a very personal way. Readers will connect and sympathize with Billy, and I don’t think this book will disappoint.

Review by Katie

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Venom

Title: Venom

Author: Fiona Paul

Release Date: Available

Secrets, murder, forbidden love, spying, mystery, and more – you want it, Venom has it. Oh, and did I mention it takes place in Venice during the Renaissance? Venom, the first book in The Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy, by Fiona Paul, combines intense murder mystery with passionate romance as the protagonist navigates the canals of Venice in the early 17th century. I have to be honest – I love historical fiction. Lacy gowns, whalebone corsets, ink quills, fans, and masquerade balls all make me wish I lived in Renaissance times (well, maybe not the corsets!). Young adult readers who have taken AP European History will appreciate the references to Michel de Montaigne and Titian; I also loved when the main character was reading a book “by a little-known English playwright named Shakespeare, and the story was about a pair of young lovers kept apart by a family feud.”

The book is about Cassandra Caravello (Cass, to most people), a sixteen year old free spirit living with her protective aunt. The multiple storylines add dimension to the plot, although at times can get a bit long. A love triangle between a peculiar but intriguing boy who denounces religion and the proper, studious man to whom she is betrothed augments romantic tension, and the realization that a murderer is on the loose adds a sense of urgency – a murderer who might be trying to kill Cass! The mysterious Order of the Eternal Rose is another plot point readers are trying furiously to uncover as the book unfolds.

Although there were moments toward the middle of the book when I was ready to skip the detailed, numerous adventures and find out what happened, near the suspenseful end, I couldn’t stop reading. Fiona Paul writes in an elegant style that is perfect for the time period about which she is writing. Her incredible detail paints a vivid picture of 17th century Venice. Whether you are looking for a book with excellent imagery, a thrilling story, or both, you won’t be disappointed with Venom.

If you’re going to read this book, be prepared for a cliffhanger ending! I was shocked to discover I wasn’t going to find answers to all of my pressing questions by the end of the book. However, I was relieved to learn that Venom was the first book in a trilogy and Fiona Paul is writing two more books in the Secrets of the Eternal Rose collection (Belladonna will be released in 2013 and the currently untitled final book in 2014. Check out Fiona Paul’s blog for more about her and her books!)

All things considered, this book was rather long, and there were times when the detail became tedious. However, it was thrilling and captivating to read, and I know I will be waiting eagerly for the remaining books in the trilogy to come out. If you like romance, murder mystery, and historical fiction, you’ll love Venom.

Review by Katie

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