Category Archives: Staff Recommends

Smash & Grab REVIEW

smash-and-grabSmash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker

Available in Print.

Girl meets boy. Boy likes girl. Boy and girl rob a bank. OK, it’s more complicated than that. Let’s start with the boy…

Christian lives in rough part of Los Angeles. Even though he is a good student and gets accepted to college, he has not been able to avoid being involved with a gang. The gang takes care of his alcoholic dad’s debts as long as Christian fulfills his obligations: robbing banks with his crew.  The crew (aka the Romero Robbers) stage hold ups and keep some of the money with the rest going to the gang leaders. Keep the jobs quick and small – get too ambitious and you get careless. That’s how you get caught. But now Christian’s boss wants a big job: breaking into a vault.

Lexi goes to an exclusive private school. She, her brother and their friends do extreme activities (like illegally BASE jumping from the top of an office building). Her life is pretty good until her father is arrested for a fraud scheme at the bank where he works. Her family’s accounts are frozen and the school kicks her and her brother out. Lexi is so angry that her father’s boss is probably also guilty but continues to live his luxurious life. She must find a way to take him down even if it means breaking into the bank to find incriminating evidence.

After a few chance encounters, Lexi and Christian have an attraction, but are suspicious of each other. Once they reveal their plans, they decide the best course is to team up to rob the bank – him to get money and her to get documents. They need each other, but they have different objectives that do not always mesh.

The story is involved, suspenseful and a fun exploration of a topic not often seen in teen books.

Learning to Swear in America REVIEW

learning-to-swearLearning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy.

Available in Print and eBook.

A giant asteroid is heading for earth. Southern California is the target, but the whole world will be impacted. The smartest minds are assembled in a NASA facility in Pasadena to solve the problem. With less than a month left, a young Russian physicist arrives to join the team. Yuri’s mathematical skills are unquestioned, but since he is only seventeen he is often not taken seriously by his fellow scientists. That is most unfortunate when Yuri knows he has the best solution to stop the asteroid.

One day Yuri decides to eat lunch outside and finds a pretty young woman named Dovie. Having spent most of his life focused on physics, Yuri is socially awkward and does not know how to interact with other people his age. In addition, Yuri has never been to the U.S. and does not understand the customs (or often the subtleties of the English language). Fortunately, the artsy Dovie takes a liking to Yuri and invites him to her house. Dovie’s hippie parents and wheelchair bound brother Lennon are welcoming but live a very different existence than Yuri’s.

With the world in peril, Yuri gets to spend time as a regular teenager while simultaneously trying to convince his colleagues that his unique knowledge holds the key to saving the planet. It’s possible his overzealous behavior will keep him from returning to Russia.

This is a nice blend of science and teenage uncertainty about their own future.

The Game of Love & Death REVIEW

gameloveGuest review from Mollie at the Lawrence Branch.

The Game of Love & Death by Martha Brockenbrough.

Available in Print, eBook & eAudio.

Love and Death come together once again to play the Game, a game played for centuries. Love has never won, ever. The date: Friday, February 13, 1920. Love choses his character, an infant boy. Death, her player is a baby girl. “Wearing a pair of soft leather gloves, Love’s opponent, known as Death, reached for the child, who woke and blinked sleepily at the unfamiliar face overhead.” Will he win this time? Death, and her history of successes, won’t make it easy for Love, especially when both can transform themselves to distract their opponent’s players!

Fast forward 17 years . . . to 1937.

The players in this round of the Game are seventeen-year-olds Flora and Henry. Flora, an African American singer/pilot, strives to be a strong woman. Henry, an orphaned white boy, living in the shadow of his well-to-do adopted brother tries to prove his worth. He and Flora meet and it is love at first sight for Henry. Can these two star-crossed lovers win the game for Love?

Short chapters keep the reader engaged; however, I chose to listen to the eAudiobook. I felt the narrator performed well. Songs were performed at the end, as a bonus section.

I recommend this book for teens that like historical fiction, love stories, or a modern-day Romeo-and-Juliet story.

My Heart and Other Black Holes REVIEW

my-heart-and-other-black-holesAvailable in Print, eBook & eAudio.

Warning: this is book is sad. It deals with sad things and unhappy people. That being said, it is a marvelously well written book that will give you all the feels and make you tear up a time or two.

Warga takes on the complicated subject of depression which is never something easy to write about or portray in a character. I, myself, have not dealt with mental illness but I have many family and friends close to me that have had their battles with depression over the years. I think Warga did an excellent job of conveying the feelings, both emotional and physical, of depression.

While her story ends on a promising note, I know that is not the case for most. But I believe Warga’s intentions are to make readers see that there are always options. There is always someone out there to support you no matter what you are going through.
I recommend this story purely because it is well written and a beautiful story. I also recommend this story for anyone that has struggled or known someone who is struggling with their own personal illness. There is always an answer and there is always someone who will support you.

Happy reading!
Warren Branch

The Leaving REVIEW

the-leaving-coverAvailable in Print & eBook.

Six kindergartners disappear. Eleven years later, five return. What happened in the meantime? Where is the sixth child? How do the families pick up the pieces and start over?

That’s where The Leaving starts. With questions and accusations and no answers. This book hooked me from the start. I love mystery and intrigue and this story has it in spades. The story is told in alternating viewpoints from two of the survivors and one of the siblings of the original six children. Each character has a unique voice and the author even uses visual text images to put the reader in the mindset of the characters.

Besides the intriguing premise, the story was fast paced and kept me engaged. It kept me guessing almost all the way through. I started to pick up the pieces and figure out the story line about two thirds of the way in but there was still some questions I hadn’t figured out till the very end.

This book is probably one of my favorites of 2016 so far. I highly recommend it to anyone! But if you love mystery and suspense, then this is a must read for you.

Happy reading!
Warren Branch