Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

Second StarFrom Goodreads: A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete’s nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she’s falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up–and the troubled beauty trapped between them.


I found this novel to be a very interesting rendition of Peter Pan, taking place on the oceanside instead of Neverland. Initially, I wasn’t sure I really liked the story. Wendy is wishy-washy, and while I was completely on her side in the hunt for her missing brothers, her tactics drove me crazy. Wendy just can’t seem to make up her mind–she loves Peter, she loves James. She loves Peter again, then back to James… and I was a little miffed with her back and forth “love affair,” secrets, and deceeits along the way. It actually wasn’t until Sheinmel threw in a twist near the very end of the novel that my perspective of the story changed, but change it did. The love story suddenly made sense, and every aspect that I previously had held qualms about dissipated. Yet one more reason that I insist on finishing every book I start—you never know what the author is going to throw your way.

Now, I’m not a surfer girl, and this novel definitely revolves around the sport and is what ties the entire story together from the get go. But, it also deals with a lot more than just surfing, such as drug use, which I found fascinating and little bit jarring since this is a modern Peter Pan.

Yes, it’s still a YA read, and no, I didn’t think the drug aspect was overpowering. There was actually a good message that went along with it, and though I never thought of Captain Hook as a drug dealer, well… Sheinmel fits it all together quite nicely, and I really loved how she tied in the Witch Tree, Fairy Dust, and flying from the fairytale to make it realistic and present day.

Overall, Second Star was indeed very well done, and I just can’t get over the ending that turned everything on its head–giving readers something to really mull over in terms of facts, and that, in truth, is what really made this novel for me. Four stars.

4 starsIn exchange for an honest review, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley.

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The Impossible Knife of MemoryFrom Goodreads: For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.


This is a very well written novel by the ever talented Laurie Halse-Anderson. Based on experiences from her own life, Halse-Anderson once again pens a poignant coming of age story ripe with love, loss, and self-exploration.

Finally stationary long enough to attend a real high school, Hayley Kincaid hardly has time to focus on the trivial subjects set before her knowing her life at home could disintegrate at any time. Andy, her father, suffers immensely from PTSD brought on by his time in the War–having both good days and bad–causing Hayley to mold her life around his. It is a heartbreaking tale of triumph and misery, one that is beautifully told.

Although I tad bit lengthy, this is an amazing look into the life of PTSD. It shows the difficulties that many suffer from once home from war, and it shows the havoc these difficulties can have on families, especially children. Hayley is an exceptionally strong female lead, held up by those who love her and her belief that her father may get better–though in her heart she knows that a good day is becoming more rare with each day that passes.

Caught between shielding her father and taking care of herself, Hayley struggles, taking on burdens no child should have to deal with. Closed off and afraid to open up, she slowly begins to trust others, seeking the help needed in order to provide healing. It’s a touching story that all should read. Four stars.

4 stars

I had the opportunity to hear Laurie Halse-Anderson speak at NCTE 2013 in November and was given an ARC of this amazing novel by the publisher, which Halse-Anderson signed for me.

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6665671From Goodreads: Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.


While I enjoyed the mystery behind this novel very much, I was less than pleased with the ending.  King presents readers with the story of Vera and Charlie, two childhood friends who drift apart due to many different circumstances, but the main one, according to Vera, is his new set of friends and their drugs/alcohol.  But there are so many different sides to Charlie and his life that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is it, and when he dies, there is much speculation.  According to Vera, she knows the truth; she knows why Charlie died, what he was responsible for, and what others were responsible for. However, by the end, I felt it was still all a bit unclear.

I really enjoyed Vera’s voice, but I still feel like I don’t know anything, and I’m not really sure that the story itself made much sense.  I lost all respect for Charlie as the story went on—he’s a real jerk—and I just can’t get over the end, which isn’t an end at all.  Charlie is dead, but why?  We’re given an idea of what might have happened, but I’m not sure I believe it, and therefore, everything is still up in the air in my mind, which is unfortunate because the whole reason I picked up this novel was due to the mystery.  I wanted to know what happened to Charlie.  Now, while I enjoyed the novel overall, Charlie’s character, his actions, and that of his friends, really left me with a sour taste in my mouth, which is fine, but it was the lack of a conclusion that really made me lose much of my gumption over the story.  Maybe I missed some vital sentence somewhere that spelled it out for me, but since Vera claims to know the truth, I really expected the truth, and not just another speculation.  Three stars.

3 stars

I purchased this novel from Amazon.

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