Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Have I told you all how much I love Stephanie Strohm?!? So much love for her and her books. This is a great and very Stephanie book. Taking place in Paris at a cooking school for teenagers, Love a la Mode is filled with love, love-triangles, jokes, and so so so many sweet treats. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time I was reading this book (except when I was worried for the characters and who in the triangle they were going to choose). The characters are such real teens and I am pretty sure that I could taste every food item from just reading Stephanie’s great descriptions. I can’t wait to see this book turned into a cake (a cake ON A CAKE) at Stephanie’s launch!

5-stars

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Don’t let the cover fool you.  This is not a light, fluffy read that will make you feel like you are smiling and drinking a hot chocolate.  American Panda tells the story of Mei, a 17 year-old who finds herself as a freshman at MIT.  As well as starting at a new school, she is dealing with the fact that her brother has been kicked out of the family due to the woman he has decided to marry.  On top of all that, Mei finds herself confronted with her culture and her parents who want her to go to school, marry a nice Taiwanese boy, and become a doctor.  But Mei doesn’t want any part of that life.  She wants to dance and avoid germs.  She wants to date the cute boy she sees around campus.

This book is so out of my realm of experience but it was fascinating to get to read it and enter this world for a while.  I have met Gloria and she writes from a very real place.  This book walks through a lot of things she dealt with growing up and she allows Mei to say the things she was never able to.  (She was a dentist, y’all.)

Gloria’s writing is wonderful and she has really created a three dimensional world that I enjoyed climbing into.  Each character has a full range of emotions and a backstory.  When she wants to be funny, she’s hilarious, and when she wants you to feel emotions, she makes you cry.   So grab a hot chocolate and curl up with this book.

4-stars

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Words cannot explain how much I love this book!  When I saw it was about a prince who secretly puts on dresses, I was hooked.  Jen Wang has created a beautiful and powerful story.  It is a story of friendship, of acceptance, and of bravery.  This book has been a hit with everyone I have given it to.  This book made me cry so many different kinds of tears throughout the course of reading it.  Don’t even think about skipping this one.

5-stars

My Plain Jane by The Lady Janies

I loved My Lady Jane and Jane Eyre is my favorite classic so this book felt like it was made for me.  I was nervous going in because My Lady Jane was so great but My Plain Jane did not disappoint.  Filled with even more references than the first one, The Lady Janies had me laughing out loud so many times.  (Their Trump jokes are amazing.  Absolutely amazing.)  Don’t worry if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, you can still enjoy this book.  The plot is so incredibly different from the source material that you will catch certain jokes if you have already read it but you don’t need any knowledge going in to have a fun time reading this book.

These women are amazing and I can’t wait to see what they have thought up next.

5-stars

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

I am so excited for the Chicago Young Adult Book Festival this year because I am absolutely loving the books by this year’s authors.

I am going to start by saying that this was a book I don’t relate to at all.  I come from a very supportive family who let both my brother and I follow our passions and major in theatre in college so I didn’t grow up in a world at all like Maya’s.

Samira Ahmed is a great new voice in YA literature.  She has managed to craft a book that deals with hard and heavy subjects while still managing to stay a fun and goofy romance at heart.  Even though I couldn’t relate to Maya’s specific experiences, she is a very relatable teenager, talking with a very believable teen voice.  Ahmed also makes sure to shine light on hate crimes, something that I think is so incredibly important.  The world is scary and we need more stories of acceptance.  This book is a good addition to the YA world.

4-stars

Satellite by Lauren Emily Whalen

I love when I have to read books for work and end up loving them! (Because when the other direction happens, it is so incredibly heartbreaking.)  Satellite, Whalen’s first YA novel, is a great piece of realistic YA fiction.  She deals with first love, family dynamics, as well as confusion as to what it means to be a person.  Her characters sound like real teenagers, smart yet still confused in certain aspects of the world.  Quite a few YA novels these days aren’t able to do that and it breaks my heart.  Thankfully, Whalen has nailed their voices.  She also also managed to create a family mystery that kept me hooked from the very beginning.  The novel is short but packed full of entertainment.  No word or page is wasted.  I even read the whole thing on the computer because I needed to know what was going to happen (which isn’t a normal thing because I have a hard time reading off computer screens and they hurt my eyes).  A well crafted, fun (yet quite sad at times) read.

If you are in Chicago on Friday, join us at The Book Cellar for Lauren’s launch party at 7pm!  There will be cake!

4-stars

The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari

I absolutely loved The Best Kind of Magic and have been gazing longly at The Sweetest Kind of Fate on my bookshelf for months, saving it for a time when I really needed it.  And that time finally came.

I absolutely love Amber Sand and the fun world that Cestari has created.  When I met her for the launch of the first book, I said to her, “Everyone has been describing it as Buffy meets Gilmore Girls but it is really more Buffy meets Veronica Mars” to which she very much agreed with me.  This book had both Veronica Mars and Buffy references and my heart was so incredibly happy.

This book is filled with some much humor while also dealing with heavier topics.  She looks into the complexity of what makes a person, not allowing any character to fall into a terrible stereotype.  (She made me like Ivy, which I didn’t think was possible after the first book.)  I love living in Chicago but reading these books makes me wish that I could live in Amber’s magical Chicago.

These books are so great.  I love them so much and need more of them in my life.

5-stars

I have been lucky enough to host both of Crystal’s launch parties and she is just the greatest.  Really, read these books.  And, if you are in Chicago, come see her and many other awesome YA authors at the Chicago Young Adult Book Festival on April 14th!

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I love these books and absolutely adore the author.  She is the sweetest human alive.

Warcross by Marie Lu

I have to admit, this is a book I judged by its cover and I said, “No thank you!” But I had heard such good things about it so when the audiobook was an ALC on Libro.FM, I decided to give it a chance.

This book was great. Lu has created a fascinating world that isn’t very different from our own, making it easy to connect to the action of the characters. She has assembled an incredibly diverse cast of characters to tell a story that I think is very important to to the world today, namely privacy in a world of technology. (I am drawn to this kind of book, like The Circle by Dave Eggars and so I was glad to see one geared at teens.) Emika is an incredibly powerful female protagonist who shows everyone that girls can be just as good at things such as science and technology as boys. The plot is filled with twists and turns (even though I did see one of the big ones coming) and it made me want to go places and do things just so I could listen to the audiobook. Definitely worth checking out.

4-stars

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Why did I wait so long to read this book? It was one of the first things I picked up when I started working at the bookstore I work at and I just never got around to it. I kept it on my shelf through many clean-outs and a move because it kept appearing on lists and I kept reading that it was great for fans of Veronica Mars. So I finally decided to pull it off the shelf and give it a try and boy am I glad that I did! Within the first 20 pages, there was a Veronica Mars reference and then, just 20 pages later, there was a reference to Jane Eyre! Gahh!

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine is a fun mystery filled with twists and turns and a lot silly antics. I sped through this book and slammed it shut when I finished it yelling, “What? WHAT?!” I then went to the bookstore I work at on my day off to buy the second book in the series. That’s how much I enjoyed this. I have so many other things I should be reading for work but Tromly has stolen my heart and pushed her way in front of everything else.

4-stars

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

Furthermore was one of my favorite books of last year and so I shook with joy when this was handed to me.

While still a great book, it didn’t live up to Furthermore for me.  And, as a bookseller, I am incredibly confused by this book because I am not sure how to sell it.  It is incredibly dark, dealing with a lot of death and very violent and gory descriptions of things.  (Bodies walking down the street without their skin will always haunt me.)  On the other hand, it was a great story of accepting help.  Seeing the characters from the last book interact with a new character and a completely new world was also a great experiences.  I love Mafi’s characters and her worlds are fully rounded out.  I liked that this is a companion book rather than a sequel but I just wish I could read Furthermore again for the first time.

4-stars

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

I am a huge fan of Stephanie’s and this is her best book yet, in my opinion.

Her voice shines through in the humor and nerdy references that fill this book.  There are so many literary references that made me shout “YAAASSSS” throughout my empty apartment when I was reading.

The combination of a fun Scottish setting and an intrusive reality show leads to tons of laughs and silly situations.  The characters are all great and incredibly realistic.  I was really disappointed to leave them behind when the book ended. And, ughhhh, Jamie was so freaking adorable!  I wish he was real…

5-stars

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

This book was such a fun adventure.  Following Jane through 5 different possible timelines, the book goes from most realistic timeline to bizarre as the book goes on.  Jane is a fun character who is stuck in a strange house with people she barely knows yet she is always up for adventure.  Cashore does a great job of making each timeline its own story while pulling details throughout them, which kept me incredibly invested as a reader.  And she left me questioning what was actually real.

This book is incredibly fun and I flew through it, wanted to know how much weirder it could get.  Cashore created some awesome characters and it was great to see how they were different in each timeline while still being the character you had grown to love.  It’s a great puzzle of a book and I loved attempting to solve it.

4-stars