Review: It’s Not Me, It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm

it's not me, it's you by stephanie kate strohm

One high school girl’s comedic examination of her dating past as told by the friends, family, and boys who were involved!

Avery Dennis is a high school senior and one of the most popular girls in her class. But a majorly public breakup with the guy she’s been dating causes some disastrous waves. It is right before prom and Avery no longer has the perfect date. She runs the prom committee, how could she not show up with somebody?

Post-breakup, Avery gets to thinking about all of the guys that she has ever dated. How come none of those relationships ever worked out? Could it be her fault? Avery decides to investigate. In history class she’s learning about this method of record-keeping called “oral history” and she has a report due. So Avery decides to go directly to the source. Avery tracks down all of the guys she’s ever dated, and uses that information, along with thoughts from her friends, family, and teachers, to compile a total account of her dating history.

Avery discovers some surprises about herself and the guys she’s spent time with — just in time for prom night!

Description taken from Goodreads.

Even though this is categorized as YA, I can’t take it completely seriously as YA. It had much more a mature MG feel to it, and I loved it for that. Many people have compared this to the movie Clueless, and I definitely see 8th grade girls falling in love with the drama, structure, and plot of it all.

It wasn’t exactly for me. I didn’t realize going in that it’s told interview-style, and that system almost never works for me. I like my stories told straight, and this veered off the path by a lot. Because of that, I struggled to get into the novel, but when I did, I found a really cute story underneath all of this. Avery is a lovable heroine who is just a little, well, clueless, and I loved reading about her throughout the course of the novel.

Overall, I did think it was a little too much. In all honesty, it sounds like the author took a bunch of overly stereotypical teens, interviewed them about a certain girl, and put it into a book. It worked at times, and it didn’t work at times. I’ll be recommending this one, but only to the right people. I can’t see this book branching audiences very well. 2 stars.


#BEA16 Recap Part 2: Middle Grade Lit

For those of you who read The Silver Words, you know that I was at BEA these last few days! Book Expo America is the largest publishing conference in North America, and I was so excited to be a part of it this year. Although I didn’t really associate middle-grade books with BEA–I was mostly there for YA lit–I was amazed by the selection of YA and children’s titles that were available. Some of the ones I’m most excited about are:

top eight middle-grade books

And some other amazing books that I picked up are:

  • a sampler of Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
  • a signed copy of Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford
  • a copy of The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal
  • a copy of Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes
  • a copy of The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat
  • a signed copy of Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang
  • a copy of Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

It hit me first when I met Jennifer Nielsen (author of The Scourge and the False Prince series) and she told me that she wrote The Scourge for people like me who asked for a female version of Sage in The False Prince. It really hit me when I met Jennifer Holm, who wrote the Babymouse series that I grew up on.

The MG experience at BEA was different for me because I was meeting authors who were parts of my childhood.

Gene Luen Yang is one of my favorite graphic novelists of all time, and I GOT TO MEET HIM. It was, in a word, completely epic. While there were still authors who I met for the first time or who were debut novelists coming to BEA, most of the authors I was super excited to see weren’t, admittedly, promoting the books that made me love them. But all the same, it was a crazy experience for me to meet some of my middle-grade heroes, from the man who co-created one of my favorite animated series, to the woman who made me realize that comics for girls was a thing.

I’m so excited to dive into these books, and I’m just thankful these authors are still writing their hearts out. I’ll be supporting them as long as they do, and long after they’ve stopped.

So looking forward to starting these, and thanks to the MG authors who came to BEA and didn’t mind me raving over them. :)

Read part one of the #BEA16 Recap series on The Silver Words.

ARC Review: The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers

the girl in the well is me by karen rivers

A hilarious and heartwrenching story about a bullied girl whose search for a new beginning takes a dire wrong turn.

Newcomer Kammie Summers has fallen into a well during a (fake) initiation into a club whose members have no intention of letting her join. Now Kammie’s trapped in the dark, growing increasingly claustrophobic, and waiting to be rescued—or possibly not.

As hours pass, the reality of Kammie’s predicament mixes with her memories of the highlights and lowlights of her life so far, including the reasons her family moved to this new town in the first place. And as she begins to run out of oxygen, Kammie starts to imagine she has company, including a French-speaking coyote and goats that just might be zombies.

Karen Rivers has created a unique narrator with an authentic, sympathetic, sharp, funny voice who tells a story perfect for fans of Flora and Ulysses, Reign Rein, and Counting by 7s. The Girl in the Well Is Me will have readers laughing and crying and laugh-crying over the course of its physically and emotionally suspenseful, utterly believable events.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, published March 15th, 2016, via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

I hate to use the words “quiet resilience” or something equally as cliché and overused by professional book reviewers like “poignant and inspiring”, but this book has/is all of those things.

At first, I was surprised that they would make a middle-grade book as dark as this, and then I realized it wasn’t really about that. Sure, Kammie is stuck in a well, but what this book is really about is cruelty. That cruelty transforms Kammie and makes her into someone who is still marked by her experiences but is resilient because of them.

I’m sure at this juncture you know that Kammie is not seriously going to die in this well, which is why I can’t really say that this book is even about the well. It just lets Kammie reflect on her life at a time when she thinks she’s going to die, and the character growth in this novel is what truly impressed me. I loved getting to know Kammie’s character, and I sympathized with her in everything that happened.

Some of the side characters were cliché, but Rivers managed to fit a ton of plot into 224 pages, and that made it worth the read. This is quite possibly one of my favorite books of this year, and I’m so glad I got the chance to read it. Would highly recommend. 4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 224

ARC Review: The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary

the night parade by kathryn tanquary

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked… and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth – or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

I think fans of Japanese anime would love this book. Luckily, I am a fan of Japanese anime. However, there’s a downside to that as well: this book is cliché and predictable if you’ve ever had a period in your life where you watched a lot of anime. There was great mythology spread all throughout this book, and I liked the general plot, but the setting was boring when I felt like it could’ve been a lot more considering this is set in Japan. There isn’t a lot of historical significance that doesn’t relate to the paranormal aspect of this story, so if you’re reading this book as historical fiction or for its place, then it gives a good look into the legend culture but it doesn’t really give any insight into the place itself.

I really enjoyed Saki’s growth as a person, even if she was a complete brat in the beginning, and I loved getting to know the side characters. They were the truly endearing aspects of this story and the reason why I enjoyed this story as I did. Each character was distinct and fun to read about.

Overall, I would probably recommend this book. I really enjoyed reading it and the imagery was really well done, even if the narrative writing was pretty simple. While I don’t think this would be a good book for people who typically read YA, I do think it would be great for anime fans or anyone who likes Japanese culture. 3 stars.

I am reading this for the Around the World 2016 Challenge! To learn more about it, stay tuned on The Silver Words. This link to the post will go live on January 16th, 2016

pg count for the hardback: 320

Review: Losers Take All by David Klass

losers take all by david klass

From the author of the backlist favorite You Don’t Know Me, a dramedy about the agony of victory and the thrill of defeat.

At Jack Logan’s sports-crazy New Jersey high school, the new rule is that all kids must play on a team. So Jack and a ragtag group of anti-athletic friends decide to get even. They are going to start a rebel JV soccer team whose mission is to avoid victory at any cost, setting out to secretly undermine the jock culture of the school. But as the team’s losing formula becomes increasingly successful at attracting fans and attention, Jack and his teammates are winning in ways they never expected—and don’t know how to handle.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be published October 20th, 2015, in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

Never before have I read a book so clearly the YA age range, but not the YA genre. This is a perfect book for boys who don’t need super intense books in order to be interested in reading. It’s also a great sports pick. Sure, for the actual sport junkies, there’s always Mika Lupica, but with LOSERS TAKE ALL, Klass has written a book for everyone–the athletic and the non athletic and the just not interested.

Although this story is about high school seniors, it’s well written and void of crude language, though it portrayed the high school mindset really well. I did think a lot of things were a little unrealistic about this book. For one thing, Becca didn’t seem focused enough and didn’t do enough to get into Harvard. Often times, it was like that ideal slipped away, like it was just part of the background. I also didn’t think it was very likely that the football coach became principal and changed the rules so that all high school seniors have to participate in a sport.

I don’t know, that may very well be plausible, but to me that sounds like a middle-school student government election where the kids promise more recess that they can’t give, except the exact opposite.

Other than those nitpicky things, I ended up really enjoying LOSERS TAKE ALL. This story is a breath of fresh air, neither too overplayed nor too subtle. There were lots of details that made the world of the story more realistic to me, and I loved the character growth as well as the character relationships. Becca and Jack in particular were really fun to read about, though the supporting characters were some of my favorite aspects as well.

All in all, a fantastic story that I will be rereading and recommending. I didn’t expect to be so drawn into this book, but a combination of the writing and the characters make it something really worth reading. 4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 320

ARC Review: Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah

emma shevah

My name is Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto.
I have no idea why my parents gave me all those hideous names but they must have wanted to ruin my life, and you know what? They did an amazing job.

As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl with a ridiculous name, Amber’s not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school.

But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little and he isn’t coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister’s birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own…

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

DREAM ON, AMBER technically is YA, but it reads like middle-grade (maybe even lower) lit, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Well, okay, I didn’t love it as much, because I felt that if this read like a YA book, it could be one of the most funny and accurate freshman year experiences that I’ve read.

There were many times when I related to and laughed at Amber’s circumstances. She’s a funny, relatable and quirky heroine whom I loved to read about. The narrative style was perfect for this story and I really appreciated Shevah’s voice through Amber.

There were so many things to love about this book, but my favorite was how much Amber grew throughout this novel. Amber learns so much through her first year in high school, and Shevah portrayed that very well.

All in all, I will be recommending this book. While it is young, it has some great themes and it was a joy to read. Certain events and Amber’s reactions to them make this book seem a little whimsical and young, but I think this will be a great book for 7th and 8th graders. 4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 272

ARC Review: I Am Drums by Mike Grosso

i am drums by Mike Grosse

While other kids dream about cars, sports, and fashion, all twelve-year-old Samantha Morris dreams about is playing the drums. But it’s hard to make her dreams come true when her parents are against it, she bangs on dictionaries because she can’t afford a real kit, and her school is about to cut its music program.

Sam’s only hope to accomplish her dream is to find a private music teacher and pay for lessons herself, no matter what it takes.

I Am Drums is a debut middle-grade novel by Mike Grosso. The novel was pitched as “an anthem for band kids everywhere,” and tells of 12-year-old Samantha, whose dreams of playing the drums run up against the hard reality of school budget cuts, leading her to improvise.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

I was so sad when Egmont USA shut down, but I’m glad that this book found a new pub home. For those of you wondering, this book will be published in September of 2016, not 2015, but I’ve been waiting on this post for awhile, so I decided to publish it now.

I AM DRUMS, for the record, is worth the wait. I loved this book, more than I’ve ever loved a book about band. I AM DRUMS is heartwarming and realistic. I would recommend it for boys and girls, and for anyone who loves the arts–especially kids who want to grow up to be artists.

I think one of my favorite things about this book was Sam. She really makes the story, even if I didn’t like her because of what happened in the ending. Sam is smart and passionate. She’s a great heroine and role model for middle-grade kids to read about, and I loved her personality. She’s not pushy or arrogant or tough, but she’s just… Sam. She works hard to achieve her goals and doesn’t stop pushing until she’s achieved them. There’s a lot to be learned from that mindset. It’s been awhile since I read about a character like this in middle-grade, and I loved getting to know her.

Another one of my favorite things about I AM DRUMS was Pete, Sam’s drum teacher. The relationship between him and Sam was realistic and funny, and the two of them together were perfect.

There were so many other things about this book that I really appreciated. The writing, the band descriptions, the fire, all of it was great. The ending wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I was okay with it in the end. Overall, I thought that I AM DRUMS was really entertaining. Definitely a book that I will be recommending. 4.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 256

ARC Review: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

This brilliant novel by Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead explores multiple perspectives on the bonds and limits of friendship.
Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games—or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl—as a friend?
On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?
Each memorable character navigates the challenges of love and change in this captivating novel.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be released July 1st, 2015via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

On almost every single list of books I recommend (YA and MG) to teens, tweens and other bloggers, Rebecca Stead’s title WHEN YOU REACH ME is on that list. It’s one of my favorite books of all time and every single time I read it, I’m both surprised and entertained. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic read.

Believe me when I say that I don’t think I know anyone who wanted to love this read more than I did, but it just didn’t happen.

The bones of GOODBYE STRANGER are all there. The world-building is beautifully done. GOODBYE STRANGER is set in New York just like WYRM and there were many moments where I could really see Miranda (the main character of WYRM) in the characters of this book. At the same time, the characters of this story were very much not Miranda. That mostly came from the different personalities, but I’ll get to that.

The writing of this book is gorgeous, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from Stead. It’s a simple kind of beautiful, and it fit right in with the tone of GOODBYE STRANGER. The characters are lovable as well as real and relatable. To top it all off, the lessons of GOODBYE STRANGER are all there. It talks about internet safety, the world we live in, growing up, surviving through school, all of the ups and downs of classic high/middle school life. Of course, with a few quirks thrown in. Plot wasn’t the best, but it was still all there.

What really failed for me in GOODBYE STRANGER was the way the narrative was structured. It took wayyy longer to read this than it should have taken for me to read a typical book of its length. The reason for that was I had to keep a physical list of what had happened in what point of view (this is told from multiple POVs and multiple time periods) and what characters appeared in what point of view just to have some sort of idea what was going on.

GOODBYE STRANGER is confusing and hard to keep up with. It doesn’t move very fast so it’s easy for attention to wander and thoughts to drift. The pacing and the structure tied together made for a book I couldn’t keep up with, even though it moved slowly. To be honest, I’m sure this will go over well with adults and reviewers, but this isn’t a story I can see a kid liking. 1.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 304

ARC Review: Cassidy’s Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation) by Sue Stauffacher

cassidy's guide to everyday etiquette (and obfuscation) by sue stauffacher

Eleven-year-old Cassidy has just inherited a gift from her late great-grandmother. Unfortunately, that “gift” turns out to be a summer trapped in etiquette school. What good are manners, anyway, for a girl who dreams of living life on the road as a hobo—er, “knight of the road”?

As if trying to remember to keep her elbows off the table isn’t bad enough, Cassidy’s best friend, Jack, suddenly seems more interested in doing chores for the new teenage girl who’s moved in next door than in fishing with Cassidy down by the river. Not even her classic epic pranks seem to be saving Cassidy from having her worst summer ever. It’s time to face facts: growing up stinks.

Veteran middle-grade author Sue Stauffacher returns with a cranky, pranky, laugh-out-loud tomboy heroine who might just learn the hard way that manners do matter, and that people can change.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I had mixed feelings on this book. For one thing, the title is a mouthful to recommend to anyone, which is a pain. However, the book itself was great. I really enjoyed learning about the characters and the different adventures that Cassidy went through. I thought that were reactions to certain events were realistic and fun to read about. She’s a quirky character, and this is a whimsical book, but those aspects of the story worked for me.

In terms of characters, there are a few characters that are a little unlikable because of their pettiness or almost a… fakeness that doesn’t feel like a middle-grade character. Sure, the characters were immature at times, but that was different from when they were unlikable. Other than this fact, which wasn’t too noticeable, CASSIDY ended up being a plesant surprise for me. It’s a funny, quick read that I will be recommending to middle-grade girls and even a few boys.

Lots of good world-building and realistic scenarios in this book that are great to see in MG lit. Overall, a good read. 3.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 304

Spotlight + Giveaway: Spelled by Betsy Schow

Hi everyone! I’m back from my hiatus, and I’m happy to announce that I’ll be back to regular posting schedule from now on. Today, I’m sharing an awesome book that I got as an ARC and ended up really liking (thanks Sourcebooks Fire!) with all of you. Be sure to check out the excerpt below, as well as the giveaway! Here’s a little bit about it:

spelled by betsy schow

Publishing date: June 2nd, 2015

Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Advance Praise for Spelled

“A cute adventure with romance set in a world full of fairy-tale mash-ups. Readers will love Dorthea’s evolution from spoiled princess to strong, confident heroine… For Oz fans, this work is a great clean-readalternative to Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die.” –School Library Journal

“This wickedly funny, fast-paced adventure has it all: brains, courage, and heart. (Plus a kickin’ pair of heels.) .” –Jen Calonita, author of The Secrets of My Hollywood Life and Fairy Tale Reform School series

“Fairy tale survival rule #1, do NOT read this book late at night. You will wake up your entire family with loud laughter. Fairy tale survival rule #2, if you love the Wizard of Oz, clever fairy tale mash-ups, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what will happen until the very end, you MUST read Spelled.” –J Scott Savage, award winning author of Farworld, Case File 13, and theMysteries of Cove series.

A hilarious and snarky reimagining of the world of Oz, along with many other fairy tales injected throughout, “Spelled” is one fabulous read…Kick off those silver slippers and tuck in with this wonderful tale!” —Senator Sipes, Lil Book Bug (Palmdale, CA)

Pre-Order Spelled: Amazon | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | Kindle |  Nook


Most of the crowd had dispersed. The final few stragglers looked at me with the all­too-common look of fear mixed with trepidation. Pix ’em. They were just servants. It wasn’t like their opinion mattered.

Only one remained, watching me with open curiosity. He looked to be in his late teens or was magically enhanced to appear so. He could have been a hundred for all I knew. I’d never seen him before in my life. He was handsome enough, for a commoner, even in his worn leather pants and cracked work boots. A foreigner, his hair was unruly and dark auburn, which complemented his tanned but dirt-smudged complexion, though the tall, dark stranger vibe was ruined by his piercing pale blue eyes.

Well, I’d had enough of being a sideshow for the day. “If you’re the new gardener, the hedges are overgrown and in need of a trim.” I pointed in the direction of my father. “While you’re there, you can help the king with the wisps.”

The young man’s expression clouded over, but he didn’t move.

I stamped my foot and pointed more forcefully. “Off with you. Courtyard’s that way. Be sure to clean those awful boots before coming back in.”

“Someone told me I’d find a princess of great worth here. One with the strength to be the hero this realm needs.” He stared at me with those unsettling blue eyes. They were cold, like ice water—made me shiver from head to toe. Then his gaze seemed to search even deeper. Finally, he looked through me, like I was nothing.

In brisk steps, he strode across the marble to the courtyard. But before crossing the threshold, he turned back to glare at me with his lip curled ever so slightly. “It seems she was mistaken.”

Just like that, I had been sifted, weighed, and found wanting.

I felt my own lip curl in response. Howrude! Who the Grimm was this peasant to judge me? I was wearing a Glenda original. Original! Not some fairy-godmother knockoff worn by those servant girls turned royal. I was a crown princess, for the love of fairy, and noonedismissed me.

Before I could put the boy in his place—down in the dirt, where he belonged—a clatter came from behind, making me nearly jump out of my shoes. I checked and was relieved that Sterling had simply dropped his sword. By the time I looked back, the gardener was gone.

After stowing his blade, Sterling held up his shield, not in defense of the entrance but so he could look at his reflection. “Clearly he’s blind and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

I didn’t ask for Sterling’s opinion, but it made me feel better.

Until he opened his mouth again.

“Worth, pffft. I mean, look around at all the jewels. Your palace has everything you could ever want. Honestly, I don’t know what you’re fussing about. Why would anyone want to leave?”

Becauseacageisstillacage, no matter how big or glittering the bars are.

And I would find a way free, no matter the cost.

Liked that? There’s plenty more of it in Spelled! Add it to Goodreads, pre-order and keep up with Betsy using the links below!

About Betsy Schow

Betsy Schow is the author of the memoir Finished Being Fat, and has been featured on The Today Show and in The Wall Street Journal. She lives in Utah, but travels the country with Color Me Rad 5k, and partners with nonprofits to teach kids creative thinking and how to reach their goals.

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