Sell Out by Tammy L. Gray (Review)

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Kindle Price: $3.99

Official Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

“Like many elite private schools, Madison High has a legacy steeped in traditions, none of which revolve around learning. Survival is simple: keep your head down, don’t say a word, and never question school royalty.

Cody James, a former victim of Madison’s vicious brand of hazing, wants nothing more than to graduate without breaking the unspoken rules that could land him back in social exile. Cody has breached the elusive inner circle, and he has no intention of losing his hard-earned security. But a beautiful new student shakes up his plan to coast by and causes him question his role as sidekick to the king of the school.

As the only daughter of rock legend Donnie Wyld, Skylar has been homeschooled her entire life. Now she wants normal, and she hopes that Madison High will offer her an escape from her father’s deteriorating health. She never intended on catching the eye of the school’s self-elected king or falling for his confusing best friend. But one look at Cody James, and she is drawn in by his guarded vulnerability.

When an average Friday night party turns into a nightmare, Cody is forced to make a decision—fight or follow. But standing up for the bullied and broken means facing a past he’s long buried and risking the future he’s worked so hard to achieve.”

My Review:

Ahhh. I really liked Sell Out. It was a delightful book that wrestled with deep issues like bullying/hazing. I’m still trying to steer away from heavy books, but Gray made it possible to understand how serious bullying is while not drowning me in depression.

I liked Cody the most. Skylar wasn’t so bad, but Cody had my heart. In this book, there is no subtle growth for Cody, if it’s in his face, it’s in your face. Gray took great care in making sure that you understood, first hand, the demons that Cody wrestled with. I loved it. There was no “I AM A MAN AND I HAVE NO FEELINGS” theme, but instead it was “I have feelings and a painful past that I try to forget.” and that’s so important. In so many books, the male character has a painful past just to spice things up or to make him seem dark and dangerous. This was not so for Cody. Cody’s painful past was raw and it broke my heart for him, but I loved seeing him overcome it. He had to listen to advice from people he trusted and from himself to tackle his problems head on and it wasn’t just because of Skylar. It was because that’s what Cody needed to progress in his life. Excellent.

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Thunder by Bonnie S. Calhoun (Stone Braide Chronicles)

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis:

In post-apocalyptic America, Selah Chavez is crouched in long grass on a shore littered with the rusted metal remnants of a once-great city. It is the day before her eighteenth Born Remembrance, and she is hunting, though many people refuse to eat animal flesh, tainted by radiation during the Time of Sorrows. What Selah’s really after are Landers, mysterious people from a land across the big water who survive the delirium-inducing passage in small boats that occasionally crash against the shoreline. She knows she should leave the capture to the men, but Landers bring a good price from the Company and are especially prized if they keep the markings they arrive with.

Everything falls to pieces when the Lander Selah catches is stolen by her brothers–and Selah wakes up the next morning to find the Lander’s distinctive mark has suddenly appeared on her own flesh. Once the hunter, Selah is now one of the hunted, and she knows only one person who can help her–Bohdi Locke, the Lander her brothers hope to sell.

With evocative descriptions of a strange new world that combines elements of scientific advances, political intrigue, and wilderness survival, Bonnie S. Calhoun weaves a captivating tale of a world more like our own than we may want to admit.”

My Review:

Thunder was an interesting novel that I was skeptical about. I read the synopsis and thought, Hm, the title and the cover are rather cliche, but it doesn’t look awful. Wait…hunting other people and selling them? Isn’t that…slavery? After I saw that, I was even more interested in reading this book. I know a guy who woke up one day and attempted to write a book about slavery, with little to no legitimate researched knowledge on the topic. The book quickly, painfully, thankfully fell apart. Slavery just isn’t the type of topic you can just hop out of bed and start writing about. So when I noticed (and it was impossible not to) that Calhoun has it as a rather large part of the book, I had to see how she was going to pull it off.

The verdict? It was respectful and I wasn’t left with the feeling that Calhoun wrote Thunder in a lackadaisical manner, but it still was centered on the capturing and selling actual beings. A post-apocalyptic slavery (in America no less) that sprang up due to another type of person that someone put a bounty on is an odd choice, given America’s history.

Onto the actual book: I wasn’t impressed. There was just no…Google, help me out, what word am I looking for? Enthusiasm? Maybe. When I read a book, there’s always some sort of inner voice that I hear reading with me. The one that creates the characters’ voices and really helps my mind use my five senses to really read. My inner voice was reading this story to me in the same way you talk about something you aren’t really interested in. A flat tone of voice, mechanical descriptions, just disinterested. Make no mistake, having the right amount of description in a young adult novel is hard. You either have no descriptive words/phrases or all of your sentences sound like this:
She gently lowered herself to the ground until her delicate fingers grasped the flower. Its pink color looked like the rosy cheeks of a newborn baby, quiet gibberish on their lips. The flower’s gossamer petals tickled the nerve-endings in her fingers as she sighed, thinking about Joseph.

Admittedly, this is a really descriptive piece, but in my opinion–even though I wrote it–it’s trying too hard and I don’t like it. It’s incredibly difficult to find that descriptive balance, but when it comes down to it, you would want your book to be over-descriptive, rather than not descriptive at all. Continue reading

In Between (Katie Parker Productions series) by Jenny B. Jones

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Price: Free!

Official Rating 3/5

Synopsis:

“Unlike most kids, teenage Katie Parker never got a fair shot at a normal life. With a mother in jail and a missing-in-action dad, she’s never known what it’s like to truly be loved. Low on options and family members, she’s soon shipped off to a foster home. Now in an unfamiliar town, Katie’s rebellious attitude is at odds with her new family, school, and classmates. And after falling in with all the wrong people at school, things go from bad to really bad after she takes the blame for vandalizing the local performing arts theater.
But in the midst of a dark situation, Katie finds light in the most unexpected places: through her new friendship with an eccentric senior, the commitment of her foster family, and a tragic secret that changed them forever. And as she inches closer to acceptance and forgiveness, she finds that God has been there all along.”

My review:

This book was cute, fairly well written, and made me laugh quite a few times. I gave it a three out of five stars because Katie sounded like a middle-schooler even though she was supposed to be in tenth grade. Also because while I understand that Katie has trust issues because she’s a foster child, I felt that some of her actions were downright rude. (spoiler) Lastly, because of the ridiculous situation Katie was put in. It was obvious that she had no hand nor any idea about the vandalism that was going to/had taken place, I don’t know why everyone insisted it didn’t sound plausible. Otherwise, she was a good main character, realistic, and relatable.

Katie has trust issues, hang-out-with-the-wrong-crowd issues, some behavioral issues, and issues with people that serve God. She’s very skeptical of the people she’s living with, apparently, James, is a pastor at a church, Millie, seems suspiciously enthusiastic about Katie’s arrival, and their dog, Rocky, looks like he wants to lick her to death. There’s not a single thing that’s shallow about Katie, but she has a whole lot to understand. I enjoyed her personality and how she meddles in things just enough without causing (too much) harm. I loved her sarcastic thought-process and her quick-witted responses as well as how she knew when to stop talking and when to start. She had a type of attitude that wasn’t disrespectful but still had a smart-alecky tang to it. Katie was full of different aspects that made her who she is and Jones wrote her well.

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