Tag Archives: Young Adult

The Lost Girl of Astor Street

Book Review: The Lost Girl of Astor Street

Author: Stephanie Morrill

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Amazon’s website of The Lost Girl of Astor Street:

When her best friend vanishes without so much as a good-bye, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail takes on the role of amateur sleuth in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. Given that Piper’s tendency has always been to butt heads with high-society’s expectations of her, it’s no surprise that she doesn’t give a second thought to searching for answers to Lydia’s abduction from their privileged neighborhood.

As Piper discovers that those answers might stem from the corruption strangling 1924 Chicago—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

Perfect for fans of Libba Bray and Anna Godbersen, Stephanie Morrill’s atmospheric jazz-age mystery will take readers from the glitzy homes of the elite to the dark underbelly of 1920s Chicago.

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            Stephanie’s other books are also written for teen girls, but are contemporary novels and I have enjoyed reading those. But I LOVED the Lost Girl of Astor Street. This book is gritty and real, and deals with emotions, life issues, and tragedy in a genuine, honest way. The twists and turns are many and most I didn’t expect. There’s adventure, suspense, mystery, history, and romance in this book, all skillfully woven together and appropriately done for this audience. I didn’t want to put this one down, not until I discovered with Piper whodunit, and what effect that would have on Piper and her family. I would love to see more from Stephanie revolving around Piper and this era, so here’s hoping!

As many have found, the young adult genre is also a great area for adult readers as well, and this is one of those that both older and younger readers would enjoy.

About the Author

Biography from Amazon’s website: Stephanie Morrill is the author of several young adult novels, including the 1920’s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street (February 2017, Blink/HarperCollins). Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can learn more about her on her author site: StephanieMorrill.com

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

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A Daring Sacrifice

A-Daring-SacrificeBook Review: A Daring Sacrifice

Author: Jody Hedlund

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Goodread’s description of A Daring Sacrifice:

The only thing harder than fighting for what’s right…is fighting their feelings for each other.

For three years, the Cloaked Bandit has terrorized Wessex, robbing the nobility by knifepoint and a well-placed arrow. But little dos anyone know, this bandit is in fact Juliana Wessex, the rightful ruler of the land and a girl her tyrannical uncle—the current Lord Wessex—believes was killed along with her father.

Juliana has become skilled at hiding from Lord Wessex in the forest, using her stolen goods to provide food and shelter to the peasants her uncle has taxed into poverty. But when she robs Collin Goodrich, her red hair betrays her true identity. Lord Collin remembers Juliana from their childhood—and challenges her to stay on his estate for a week in hopes she will leave her thieving ways and become a proper lady once more. Juliana is intrigued by Collin and his charms, but only time will tell if he can overcome her distaste of the nobility—as well as win her heart.

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            In contrast to the heroine of An Uncertain Choice, Juliana is a fiery young woman with a lot of anger to deal with. She made for a very interesting main character, and one that I really enjoyed reading about, especially for this time period. At times I got a little frustrated with her, but I liked the different angle that Jody took with this character. Lord Collin wasn’t a perfect character by any means either, and I really liked how he grew throughout the book and realized what was truly important in life and to Juliana.

This book is aimed at teens, so it was a little shorter than what I usually find myself reading, but the pace made up for it. The ending—I couldn’t put it down. The book’s title made a whole lot of sense, A Daring Sacrifice, when the Jody hit the climax with both Juliana and Collin sacrificing for those they loved and for what they believed in. The villain was odious, as he should be. 😉 Overall, it was a quick read, but one I enjoyed. I admire Jody’s desire to write quality teen fiction, aimed at teen girls in particular. In An Uncertain Choice and now A Daring Sacrifice (which are connected) she is able to weave in Christian themes along with adventure, danger, real-life emotions, and a sweet romance. I would recommend both books in this series to pre-teen and teen girls who enjoy medieval fiction that contains romance, strong characters, and adventure, all written from a Christian world view. This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved to read as a teen.

About the Author

Biography from Jody’s website: Jody Hedlund is a best-selling and award-winning author who loves fairy-tales and happily-ever-afters. She makes her home in Midland, MI with her husband and five teen-aged children. When she’s not writing another of her page-turning stories, you can usually find her sipping coffee, eating chocolate, and reading. Find out more on her website: http://jodyhedlund.com/

I was given a review copy of A Daring Sacrifice from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

To Get To You

To-Get-to-You-a-novel3-654x1024Book Review: To Get To You

Author: Joanne Bischof

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Goodread’s website description of To Get To You:

To get to the girl he loves, Riley Kane must head off on a road trip with the father he never knew. Then pray for a miracle.

Most teens would love to have a pro surfer for a dad. Just not Riley. Abandoned as a kid, he hates the sound of the ocean and the man who gave himself to it.

When the eighteen-year-old learns that his best friend is stranded at a New Mexico hospital as her father fights for his life, Riley hits the highway to head east. But when his Jeep breaks down before he even leaves California, he must rely on the one man he despises to get to the girl who needs him the most. And when it comes to the surfer with the Volkswagen van and dog-eared map, a thousand miles may–or may not–be enough to heal the past.

A story of new beginnings and second chances.

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So I have this friend. I’m sure you have one like her, or maybe you are her. 😉 She’s the friend who will tell you about her favorite author and then you, with the best of intentions, assure her you’ll read a book by that author. And then you don’t, because there are so many books and so little time and sometimes we just forget important details like new author names, but I digress (I’ve always wanted to use that word!). My friend knows that I enjoy finding new authors and reviewing books, so she informed me of an opportunity to review a new release by author Joanne Bischof. I’m so glad that I finally got a chance to read a book by Joanne, because oh-my-word, I was blown away.

To Get To You is different than the usual Christian Young Adult book. It’s written from the guy’s point of view. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at first, but I ended up loving it. I felt I was really able to get to know Riley.

To Get To You started out with a romantic bent, but this book brought so much more to the table. Riley’s relationship with his dad was so authentic and difficult, that it was nice, in a strange way, to read. Probably because of the honesty there in their interactions and reactions. Riley’s relationship with Becca was so sweet, and I loved every minute of it.

Sometimes a book closes and you’re left thinking, “Well, that was nice.” but you feel like the author didn’t quite nail it. Well, Joanne nailed it. Here’s a quote from near the end of To Get To You that I absolutely loved:

“…there are some things you can’t go back from. You just lay the broken pieces down and then there’s grace and its glue, and in a strange way, you’re more whole than before, because this time…this time it’s not your own doing.”

I cannot recommend this book enough to both young adult readers as well as the older readers who love a good story that touches the heart. Reading To Get To You was a joy, and I hope you take the chance to try it out.

About the Author

Biography from Goodreads: Christy Award-finalist and author of The Cadence of Grace series and This Quiet Sky, Joanne Bischof has a deep passion for heartfelt stories that shine light on God’s grace and goodness. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her husband and their three children. Find her online at http://www.joannebischof.com/

I was given a review copy of To Get To You from the author in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Summer By Summer

_240_360_Book.1561.coverBook Review: Summer By Summer

Author: Heather Burch

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Book Look Bloggers’ website description of Summer By Summer:

When Summer took a job as a nanny for a couple vacationing in Belize, she imagined it would be a fresh start before starting college in the fall. And while she adores her charge, Josh, she can’t say the same for her employers’ oldest son, Bray. He’s cocky, inconsiderate, and makes her feel she’s a chore he has to put up with. In short, he’s everything she dislikes in a guy.

Bray had a plan for the summer: party, hang out with friends, and forget all the responsibilities waiting for him back home. But every time he’s forced to be around Summer, her dour, serious mood sets him off. Not to mention she has a habit of picking up on what he already knows is wrong with him.

Then the two find themselves on a dive trip gone wrong, stranded on a remote island. As they focus on survival, their differences melt away, and they find being together may be what both needed all along.

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Summer by Summer is the first book I’ve read from Heather Burch, and I fell in love with this author’s writing style, the characters, and the setting. This novel is a YA adventure/romance. Heather did a magnificent job of pulling off both adventure and romance, keeping my attention throughout the entire book. I read it in two days, folks. Two. Days. It would have been shorter, but you know, work and stuff. Here’s why I loved it:

The style. There was never a lull in Summer By Summer, never a dull moment. There wasn’t one time where I yawned and set the book aside. I was engaged and pulled in by Summer and Bray’s uniquely written perspectives, which leads me to…

The characters. Bray and Summer were both flawed, in big ways. Yet at the same time, they had good things about them that made me cheer for them. This book is in the first person point of view, which I really enjoyed, since it included Bray’s perspective. I identified with Summer in several ways, which made the book all the better. Being on the island is a time for each of finding out who they truly are and who they want to be. This is a story about working through your pain and knowing you’re not alone, almost a coming-of-age. Summer also works through her anger toward God and finding that she really does need him. Bray…well his relationship with God wasn’t really explored, which I would have liked. He seemed more along for the ride on that one.

The setting. It’s super cool, guys. I mean, c’mon, Belize? Then the fact that they’re shipwrecked intrigued me. I’ve read shipwreck stories in Historical Fiction, but not in Contemporary, so that was fascinating.

The extras. The mystery in this book that made things even worse on the island was well done, I enjoyed that.

Summer by Summer is a well-written novel, and a good read for an older teen. The ages of the characters and what they’re struggling with will be a great fit for a teen or just-into-college reader. Or if you’re just looking for a great, relaxing story, then you might just want to get yourself a copy of Summer by Summer.

About the Author

Biography from Book Look Bloggers’ website: Heather Burch, the author of the popular Halflings series, spent the last seven years in Southern Florida but recently returned to her hometown in the Ozark Mountains. Her books have garnered praise from USA Today, Romantic Times, and Booklist magazine. When not working on her latest novel, she can be found hiking in the hills or planning a trip to the beach with her husband, John, who is her hero in every way.

I was given a review copy of Summer By Summer from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

An Uncertain Choice

51Jxz888HML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: An Uncertain Choice

Author: Jody Hedlund

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Zondervan’s website description of An Uncertain Choice:

Due to her parents’ promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father’s enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents’ will left a second choice-if Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights-the one who appears the most guilty-had not already captured her heart.

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An Uncertain Choice is a different type of book from what Jody usually writes. Rather than a novel set during the 1800s, this book plays out during medieval times. Also, instead of featuring a hero and heroine in their 20s or 30s, this book features young adult characters. Though An Uncertain Choice differs in some areas, it still has what I’ve come to love from Jody. Settings that come alive, characters that are colorful, God-honoring romance, and attention-grabbing twists. Let’s dive into the particulars. 🙂

Getting into the flow of this book was difficult at first, just because An Uncertain Choice is so different from Jody’s other books. I had to adjust my expectations a bit. Once I got into the story, though, I was hooked. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how Rosemarie was going to pick a suitor in such a short period of time and if it would be accomplished in a believable way, but Jody worked it out well. I was able to guess a lot of what was going to happen next in the story, but even then, I still enjoyed this book. I really admire how Jody wanted to write a Young Adult book that promoted godly romance through an adventurous story. Finding books that do that for teens can be difficult, so I’m excited to see where Jody is going to take this series, and possibly other books in the future (?).

If you know of a teen who enjoys both adventure and romance in their reads, or one who can’t get enough medieval tales, then I encourage you to point them to An Uncertain Choice.

About the Author

Biography from Jody’s website: Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of seven novels, including Captured By Love, Rebellious Heart, and A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award and INSPYs Award. She received a bachelor’s from Taylor University and a master’s from University of Wisconsin, both in social work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children. To learn more, you can check out her website: http://jodyhedlund.com/

I was given a review copy of An Uncertain Choice from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Jupiter Winds

jupiter-winds-300Book Review: Jupiter Winds

Author: C.J. Darlington

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Mountainview Books’ website description of Jupiter Winds:

In 2160, a teenager becomes the bait to capture her missing revolutionary parents she thinks are long dead.

Grey Alexander has one goal—to keep herself and her younger sister Orinda alive. Not an easy feat living unconnected in the North American Wildlife Preserve, where they survive by smuggling contraband into the Mazdaar government’s city zones. If the invisible electric border fence doesn’t kill them, a human-like patrol drone could.

When her worst fear comes true, Grey questions everything she she thought she knew about life, her missing parents, and God. Could another planet, whose sky swirls with orange vapors and where extinct-on-Earth creatures roam free, hold the key to reuniting her family?

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I really enjoyed this book. Quite a lot. Why? I’ll s’plain. 😉

I won Jupiter Winds in a Goodreads giveaway, and as soon as I got home on spring break, I started reading. And reading. C.J. had me hooked from page one. I loved the unique spin this book took on the dystopian world, keeping it from becoming trite and just like all the other books in its genre. What’s different? Well, Jupiter Winds has space travel. How cool is that? Pretty cool, actually. I have no idea how accurate this book would be to actual space travel (it’s fiction and futuristic, some slack can be cut), but for my unscientific mind, this book was fascinating. I also liked how C.J. was able to weave a faith element into this story without it coming across as forced, preachy, or lame, if I can use that word. The spiritual part wasn’t overdone or too sparse; she really struck a good balance. This story is told from both Grey and Rin’s (Orinda) point of view, which I really enjoyed, since the two sisters are so different. The tension in the story was great right up to the very end, even preserving some of the mystery until the last few pages. I found myself contemplating the characters and what would happen next in their story throughout the day when I was unable to read.

All in all, Jupiter Winds was a refreshing change for me from the Contemporaries and Historicals that I’d been reading. I highly recommend this young adult read for anyone who is looking for a change from their usual genres.

About the Author

Biography from Mountainview Books’ website: C. J. got her big break in publishing when her first novel Thicker than Blood won the Christian Writers Guild 2008 Operation First Novel contest. She hasn’t slowed down since and wrote and published her second and third contemporary novels Bound by Guilt and Ties that Bind. Her newest novel Jupiter Winds is a YA/dystopian/space adventure.In 2012 C. J. co-founded Mountainview Books, LLC, with her mom and sister. A homeschool graduate, C.J makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and a paint horse named Sky.
Website: http://www.cjdarlington.com

The Captive Maiden

Book Review: The Captive Maiden

Author: Melanie Dickerson

Review by Grace Olson 

Yay! At long last, I was able to get my hands on a copy of Melanie Dickerson’s latest fairytale retelling, The Captive Maiden. A Cinderella/Ivanhoe mesh, this latest novel lived up to the standard set by Dickerson’s other books. So what did I think? Keep reading. 🙂

The Story

Taken from Amazon’s website synopsis of The Captive Maiden:

Happily Ever After …Or Happily Nevermore?

Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke’s son, Valten—the boy she has daydreamed about for years—is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

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Since the first time I picked up Dickerson’s first novel, The Healer’s Apprentice, I’ve been hooked. So I wasn’t surprised when The Captive Maiden was another good read. The setting, as usual, was vivid and I had no trouble imagining myself walking the streets of medieval Hagenheim. But the real gems in this book are the characters.

The Hero: Remember Valten? The macho older brother from The Fairest Beauty? He’s back, and he’s still not overjoyed that his younger brother one-upped him with his fiancee. But when he sees Gisela, his disgruntlement towards his brother starts to fade. There is another issue he’s been struggling with lately, however. Valten has always been a fighter. He’s won almost every tournament he’s entered, in all the categories, but he’s found that that kind of life is losing its appeal. But if he’s not destined to be a tournament fighter, then what is he supposed to do? Could God have a plan for him other than what Valten has been pursuing for so long? As the story unfolds, we get to see a side of Valten that was not revealed before, a softer, kinder side that appears when Gisela is around and endears him to the reader and to the heroine. Valten is also the perfect hero. Strong, dedicated to protecting the heroine, and chivalrous. What’s not to like?

The Heroine: Gisela knows the life of near-slavery she’s been living with her cruel stepmother and stepsisters is not how her life is destined to be, and she is determined to escape. There is only one problem. Though she’s tried to cease caring about anything so that her stepmother cannot hurt her, she has one weak link in her armor. Her father’s horses. When a tournament is held in Hagenheim, Gisela sneaks off to attend. There she is singled out by Valten, and her life becomes forever changed. But her stepmother and Valten’s sworn enemy, Ruexner, are both determined to keep the two apart.

I loved how Dickerson spun out the story of Cinderella. Evfemia, the stepmother, made me want to slap her every time she opened her mouth. It was also fun to get to know Valten’s other siblings, such as Margaretha. I believe, if the rumors can be trusted, that Margaretha will be having a story of her own soon, and after getting a glimpse of her character, I can tell you, I can’t wait!

Both Gisela and Valten wonder whether God has a plan for their lives. Gisela isn’t sure, since she is a woman. And Valten has doubts because he wonders if God would truly answer him. Neither of them expect the answer they’re given.

About the Author 

Biography from Amazon’s website: Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer’s Apprentice and The Merchant’s Daughter, both Christy Award finalists, winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for 2010’s Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama. ~ To learn more about Melanie and her other books, visit her web page: http://www.melaniedickerson.com/

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I was given The Captive Maiden this past Christmas, and though I’m just reviewing it now, I’ve been done with it for nearly a month. It only took me a few days to fly through this read, a usual occurrence whenever I read anything by Melanie Dickerson. Though it is not my favorite of her novels, I still would highly recommend this book, especially to lovers of sweet romance, medieval historical fiction, and young adult novels.

The Captive Maiden is available for download, check-out, or paper copy.