I've seen mini-reviews on other blogs and love the idea! I'm on vacation, so I'm trying to get a lot of reading done...
The Boy on the Bridge
by Natalie Standiford
To be published by Scholastic
on August 1, 2013
My (mini) take: What I loved most about this book was the setting. Laura Reid is a college student participating in an exchange program in Leningrad in 1982, spending a semester working on her Russian and soaking up the culture.I loved reading about pre-Glasnost Russia -- food shortages, strict rules banning fraternization between Soviets and foreigners, and a high level of paranoia. I also loved the way the book depicted the foreign exchange experience in general -- the constraints that come with living with other American students while trying to experience a foreign country.
When Laura meets a guy named Aloysha on a bridge, she escapes her bubble and gets a glimpse of real Russian life. But in this case, there's a catch: Laura is repeatedly warned by her chaperones and fellow students that many Russians feign romantic attachment to Americans as a means of entering a sham marriage and getting out of the country. Of course, Laura falls in love.
If you are a reader who needs closure, you may take issue with what, to me, seemed like a frustratingly ambiguous ending. Is this a bittersweet coming of age story about a girl who is duped? A romantic story about love against the odds? I don't mind books that don't tie everything up in a neat little bow, but in this case it felt to me that at a certain point, all the events of the book were dumped in my lap for me to sort out. I think the book would have packed more of an emotional punch for me if more had been definitively resolved. You can read more of my thoughts under spoiler protection in my Goodreads review.
by Eliza Tilton
Published by Curiosity Quills Press
on May 1, 2012
Source: gifted from author
Synopsis from Goodreads: Hopeless he'll never be more than the boy who didn't save his brother, 17-year-old Avikar accepts his life as the family stable boy, trying to forget the past. But when his sister, Jeslyn, is kidnapped, the thought of losing another sibling catapults him on a desperate quest. With his best friend by his side, and using the tracking skills he learned from his father, he discovers Jeslyn has been taken, kidnapped by one Lucino, the young lord of Daath, a mystical place thought only to exist in fables. And Lucino has plans for Jeslyn. His shape-shifting brethren feed off the auras of humans, and Jeslyn's golden hue is exactly what Lucino needs to increase his power. The longer it takes Avikar to reach her, the more entranced she becomes with Lucino's world, and the harder it will be for Avikar to set her free. He failed his family once. He won't fail again...
Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the author, Eliza Tilton. She is a fellow blogger and I think she's great. It's always tricky when a friend asks you to read their book, because if their book is not your kind of thing, that can be awkward. Luckily, I really liked Broken Forest -- and check out the beautiful new cover :)
Broken Forest is light YA fantasy offers up a great blend of romance, action and suspense. Multiple POV is something that's not easy to pull off, but I really liked the way that the chapters alternated between Avikar's, Jeslyn's and Lucino's POVs. The switch-offs in POV added a lot suspense to the story, gave the reader insight into what each character was thinking and feeling and really propelled the plot along. Often, in multiple POV stories, I have a strong preference for one narrator, but in the case of Broken Forest, I thought all three were equally compelling. Jeslyn is kidnapped at the opening of the story, and her brother Avikar and his friend set out to rescue her. The action moved smoothly, with the guys facing challenges and picking up a few allies (and some enemies) on the way.
Avikar was definitely my favorite character. He's one of those "weight of the world on his shoulders" characters that I love. He holds himself responsible for a family tragedy and this experience adds more psychological depth to his character and more urgency to his quest to save his sister. Lucino is a very intriguing villain -- I think including the POV of the villain is a great way to make his character much more three-dimensional -- and scary! Jeslyn is probably the least developed character, or maybe it's more fair to say that she's the hardest character to figure out. She gets put into the "damsel in distress" role at the outset of the story, but by the end of the story, she's … well, even more in distress…
I'd definitely recommend Broken Forest to fans of light/fairytale fantasy.
If He Had Been With Me
by Laura Nowlin
To be published by Sourcebooks
on April 1, 2013
Source: won on I Heart YA Fiction!
Mini-synopsis (adapted from Goodreads:) Throughout their whole childhood, Finn and Autumn were inseparable—they finished each other's sentences, they knew just what to say when the other person was hurting. But one incident in middle school puts them in separate social worlds come high school, and Autumn has been happily dating James for the last two years. But she's always wondered what if… The night she's about to get the answer is also one of terrible tragedy.
My (mini) take: I read a great review of this book on another blog, and decided it was just the kind of heart-wrenching contemporary I usually love. And, after reading If He Had Been With Me, I can say that there are a lot of things about the book I enjoyed. First, I love (and also kind of hate) those books that begin with a spoiler, telling you that something terrible will definitely happen. In this case, you even know what it is. I wouldn't want every book to work that way, but in this case it did create an undercurrent of sadness that ran beneath the entire story.
Laura Nowlin does a great job of observing and portraying social and emotional nuances -- the way that a sentence, a gesture, a decision can have huge impact on our relationships and our lives. I loved that she brought the issue of depression into the book -- two characters in the story suffer from serious depression and I thought the topic was handled in a empathetic and responsible way.
If He Had Been With Me is perfect for people who enjoy books with a lot of psychological depth, and, well … tearjerkers. This is a sad story!