My Lift Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door

29b1b7a625d0e522904c4bfc76d30115“The Garretts were my bedtime story, long before I ever thought I’d be part of the story myself.”

For the last ten years, Samantha Reed, her senator mother and older sister have lived next door to the Garretts. According to Mrs. Reed, who makes her own homemade lemonade, vacuums the carpet in the correct pattern every evening, and does everything perfectly as a single and overachieving mother of two, the Garretts are everything that’s wrong in a respectable neighborhood. They have eight children, are always loud, leave toys in the yard, don’t take care of their flower beds, don’t mow the lawn on time, and the mother breastfeeds on the porch. When they moved next door, Mrs. Reed did her best to block them out and ignore them, expecting her daughters to follow her example. Not Samantha. She’s fascinated by them. Since they moved in, she’s used the small balcony off her room to sit and watch them, wondering what life would be like with so many siblings, a mother and a father, and the happiness they seem to have in their house. This summer, that all changes, when Jase Garrett joins Samantha on her balcony, and instead of being the watcher, she finally begins to live the life she’s always wanted, even if that means the world as she knows it is torn apart.

It’s quite a journey for Samantha in this book. She begins as a very passive character, always seeming to have everything fall into place for her. She’s also a good girl and does what is expected and believed of her. Her mother asks her to do chores, Sam does them. She works two jobs, and is always the model employee. Her grades are good, and she tries to be a great listener with her best friend, but Samantha always seems to be overlooked. Her mother is out winning campaigns and being a spotlight in the community while her sister is out with her boyfriend and partying, but Samantha is always left at home, dutiful, docile, predictable. When she meets Jase, she knows that any relationship between them would be a Great Disappointment to her mother, but she can’t help it. He’s the most wonderful guy she’s ever met, and to see how he cares for his siblings, fixes broken things, and has a strong work ethic and dreams, she’s head over heels before she can blink. It doesn’t seem to matter that her mother, who’s been increasingly embroiled in a love affair with her campaign manager and the political schmoozing of running for office again, doesn’t know about her love for Jase and how she’s been sucked into his family as if she’s belonged there all along. And then suddenly, Samantha’s perfect life is derailed and she’s left with a heartrending choice. Her family or her boyfriend and his family. There can be no both, because when there’s one against the other and you know something terrible, you have to pick a side and stick with it.

One of the best contemporary romance books for teens I’ve ever read! So addicting that I couldn’t help but fall in love with Samantha and Jase. This novel at times can be laugh-out-loud funny, achingly poignant, sweet and touching, and can guilt your own heart to pieces at the climax. There are sexual, drug, and alcohol references. The next in the series is set for 2015.


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Author Spotlight: Ally Carter

(Note: Part of this post is taken from a previous entry.)

You might have read her already, but Ally is the author of some great, clean mystery reads for middle grades and lower high school readers. These series are empowering, fresh, and funny. Any girl, especially, will have a hard time not liking these mysteries! And, they’re so good, they’re hard to put down!

gallagher girls

Gallagher Girls Series:

I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You; Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy; Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover; Only the Good Spy Young; Out of Sight, Out of Time; United We Spy

The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is not your typical private school, although it does produce very intelligent young ladies with certain, um…unique skills. Espionage skills, that is. Cammie Morgan is one of these young ladies. Together with her best friends, Rebecca ‘Bex’ Baxter, Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Sutton and Macey McHenry, they go through high school learning about their future jobs as spies, but they also learn a lot about love, friendship, survival, trust, and determination. Although they each have their own particular gifts, using them together makes this foursome hard to beat, and, in the end, they just might be responsible for saving the world. Read this series and find out!

I loved this series! The characters seemed well thought-out and they all struggle with something that other teens will identify with. Since the focus is mainly on Cammie, she has issues with trusting her mom and finding out who her dad really was. Being spies, everything is on a “need to know” basis and Cammie doesn’t have “high-enough clearance.” As such, she has to learn a lot of things on her own, including how to solve her own problems, generally. This is not to say there is parent bashing, not at all! The adults in this story have their own battles, but they are absolutely trying to protect and support the teens. Another thing that has been pointed out with this series is basically how there isn’t much background and credibility to their extraordinary claims of skill. Of course, this series is NOT a guide about how to do spy tricks like arming and disarming bombs or hacking into the CIA’s servers, etc. It neither will say about how to kill a man with a piece of uncooked spaghetti (a very real claim). Why? I shouldn’t have to state it, but we don’t really want teens learning that actual information from a fictional book. Wouldn’t want the CIA/FBI asking some nasty questions, right? Mmmmkay.

Heist Society Series:

Heist SocietyHeist Society

Katerina Bishop wanted to escape the family business to be a normal teenage girl, but when her best friend Hale gets her suspended from school, she has nowhere else to go. He did it for her own good though, as her father’s been accused of stealing a priceless collection of art from a mob boss. Kat must clear his name by proving someone else is the bandit and find the art all in two weeks or lose and sign her father’s death sentence. Luckily she has help, but will Kat’s crew succeed? This is a fast-paced adventure/thriller/mystery that takes the reader across the globe and guessing of what will come next!

Uncommon Criminals Heist Society 2Uncommon Criminals

In this next installment of Kat Bishop, she has gained a bit of fame (and maybe a big head) with the previous heist. Now she has been asked to steal the Cleopatra Emerald, an extremely famous gem that is thought to be jinxed (no one has ever succeeded in plans to steal it), and return it to its rightful owners. In her quest to steal for good rather than for evil, Kat believes she cannot back down from the challenge, but it proves to be harder than she thinks as her crew is wary of the emerald’s curse, it is extremely well-protected, and something just isn’t quite right about the whole thing…

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This time our favorite thieves are defending one of their own. W.W. Hale the Fifth has just been named the heir-in-trust to his recently deceased grandmother’s billion-dollar company and the lawyer has been named as his trustee. For Hale it is a nasty shock back to his past, and yet he is devastated at the passing of his grandmother for she was the only family member whom he liked. Kat doesn’t want to intrude, but when Hale’s loyal butler, Marcus, asks for Kat’s help, she can’t refuse. What a revelation Marcus has, too! He says his sister Marianne was supposed to be in the will, as she was Mrs. Hale’s lady’s maid for many years and they were very close. Kat fears Hale is being conned, but she can’t tell him because it could destroy his faith at being his grandmother’s most trusted relative. Plus, he’s not acting like her Hale; he’s someone named Scooter. It’s a high-stakes job, and Kat has to find out the truth, even if it could mean losing her best friend and love forever.

I found this series to be extremely fast-paced and well-researched, but perfect for middle grade readers with overall content including emotional situations, depth of learning, easy reading, etc. Older readers (upper high school and above) will find that it needs a certain suspension of belief (in other words, it needs a broad imagination) that is much easier at younger ages. Still, it is quite entertaining, and the characters are fun if only moderately developed, i.e. I would certainly enjoy more description about the characters and their relationships/histories. However, one point in favor of this series is that it draws well on classical learning (or a lot of the things you are supposed to learn in world history about cultures, art, etc.). I found my collegiate education in humanities to be a great asset in reading this series and fleshing out some of the hidden clues (much like The Da Vinci Code was for adult readers…in fact, that’s a great comparison!). Most of all though, you are just along for the ride! Rating: Great reads! Must read for younger teen readers!

Last year she also announced she’s writing another series called Embassy Row set to be released sometime in 2015. More about Ally? Go to her site!


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Defy by Sara B. Larson


The kingdom of Antion is under a heavy hand. They’re at war with neighboring kingdom Blevon, and its citizens are terrorized. Everyone lives in fear of the king and the Blevonese. For those children who are left parentless, the kingdom takes them and funnels them into two paths—the females, no matter their age, go to the breeding houses, and the males are put into the army. Alexa Hollen and her twin brother Marcel have just been orphaned, as a Blevonese sorcerer sets fire to their village. Refusing to go to the horrors of the breeding house, where she would be treated like livestock to produce as many babies as possible for the country, Alexa chops off her hair and pretends to be a boy, joining her brother as candidates for the guard. A few years later, Alexa, now Alex, is a member of Prince Damian’s royal guard. Alex is well-known as the best swordsman in the guard and liked by her comrades, and that almost makes guarding a spoiled and arrogant prince bearable. But when an intruder breaks into the palace and kills her brother, Marcel, Alex is devastated. To comfort her, their friend and fellow guard Rylan confesses he’s known she was Alexa for years and that he loves her. As all this happens, Alex is assigned to guard the prince’s room during the night for his added protection. Her whole world is thrown into confusion. With her grief and her fear, surprises haven’t stopped for Alex, as during the night, the prince tries to become her friend and asks her for her trust and loyalty. She gives it relunctantly, and almost before she has much time to process anything, Prince Damian, Rylan, and Alexa are abducted by the Blevonese and taken as captives. Turns out, Prince Damian has also known for awhile about Alexa and has feelings for her. The kidnapping has them all confronting their feelings, their promises, and their deepest desires. For a girl with everything to lose, any choice seems treacherous, but her life isn’t the only one at stake. It’s their entire country.

Despite many reviewers who have compared this to their expectations of Disney’s Mulan story, it’s obvious they had not read Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series and other books about Tortall because that’s more what this book resembles. While it definitely isn’t Mulan, it also isn’t closely related to Pierce’s stories. It has its own charater and charm. Now, if you hate love triangles, maybe you should just skip this. This is another very critiqued theme, but honestly, when you’re a girl who’s about to be sent to a filthy place, raped repeatedly and forced to bear children only to have them be forced into the same life that you lead, I’m pretty sure you’d pretend you were a boy too. And when you’ve acted like a boy for like eight years or more, you probably find it hard to be a girl, even in private. You respond and act entirely like a boy, so acting like a girl and having interactions as a girl is bound to be overwhelming and hard to navigate! Essentially, she’s still that young girl because she’s been emotionally maturing as a boy. She hasn’t had the chance to interact with boys and love like a girl would have. Honestly, I really liked Alexa and her courage and determination. I didn’t mind the love triangle, because both boys form attachments to her for different but perfectly legit reasons. I can’t wait for the second book!

Possibly some the whole breeding houses and everything relating to that would make this inappropriate for some younger readers. Especially when they mention a six year old girl going into the breeding house…just to live for now, but to be *grimace* “useful” when she comes of age.

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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen


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Diamonds & Deceit by Leila Rasheed

Diamonds & Deceit

diamonds & deceitThe sequel to Cinders & Sapphires, Diamonds & Deceit once again brings us the rich and drama-filled life of the Averley/Templeton family. With the revelations from the first book, we need a recap along with our summary! (Spoilers!)

Rose, the housemaid, was the illegitimate daughter of Lord Westlake and the housekeeper, Mrs. Cliffe. Rose Cliffe is now Lady Rose, formally adopted by Lord Westlake, and must fulfill all of her new expectations as the daughter of a lord. As such, it is her first season and she is formally presented to society. However, she is still learning the ropes and trying not to make a fool of herself while being mocked and ridiculed by society’s ladies and even her stepmother and stepsister. When she meets the new Duke of Huntleigh, she finds she isn’t the only one who despises all of society’s rules and gossip. Alexander, the Duke, is a rogue, albeit THE great catch of the season what with his newly inherited title and wealth. Even Charlotte has set her cap at him. Rose doesn’t know what to do, but she’s sure Alexander likes her, at least as a friend. With all of the other intrigues around her, is he telling the truth or will he ruin her for good?

For our other heroine, Lady Ada is being courted by Lord Fintan, who previously was involved with Charlotte, and whom Charlotte is desperate to catch as a husband. Since society and her father both dictate Ada would do well to accept Lord Fintan, her former love for Ravi and goals for her academic studies vie with her wish to do the right thing for herself and her family. Meanwhile, Charlotte, always the little minx, is still carrying on a love affair with Lord Fintan behind Ada’s back, and Lord Fintan wants a quick dash to the altar for him and Ada, even if he can’t resist kissing Charlotte. Will Ada find out before it’s too late, and will she choose status over her own wishes?

I should mention, this is Charlotte’s third season and after this it will be nigh impossible to get married. She loves Fintan, but she’ll take the Duke of Huntleigh with his wealth and power. Any desirable male she can catch, really. Charlotte is so Machiavellian and selfish, but she does leave a few surprises for us to discover.

Then there’s the boys…

In the previous book, Sebastian Templeton, the infamous rake, was in a secret relationship with his valet, Oliver. Another former valet threatened to expose Sebastian’s sexuality and went to attack him. Sebastian defended himself, and the old valet was accidentally killed. Rather than risk having Sebastian publically shamed and dragged through the mud in the papers, Oliver confesses he killed the valet and is sentenced to prison awaiting trial. Sebastian, determined not to mess it up this time with the boy he loves, will stop at nothing, even public embarrassment, to free Oliver, and along the way, may discover some secrets Oliver’s been hiding.

Finally, the youngest son, Michael Templeton, is hopelessly in love with the Indian nursemaid, Priya. The only one who knows about his engagement to Priya is his stepsister, Georgina, who adores Michael. Michael, young and stubborn, battles with himself to return to his education at Eton, and Georgina convinces him that it is the best way to give him and Priya the best start at life. While he is away, though, Priya’s torment at the hands of  her employer, Lord Westlake’s heir Sir William, continues, and it leads to devastating consequences.

If you recall, I found the first book just scattered and not very likeable. I was happy to find this one a great read. Maybe I just didn’t like Ava and Ravi’s storyline previously, but this one mainly follows Rose. It helps that at least someone has a happy ending here, and it flows much like the addictive drama on Downton Abbey, even if characters/plots are not similar to the hit series. I cannot wait for the next one! Although it touches on sexuality and scandal, it is a pretty clean read.


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The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

The Cadet of Tildor

Cadet-of-Tildor-677x1024In the kingdom of Tildor, Lady, or Cadet, Renee de Winter is in her final year at the Academy, the training ground for the king’s most trusted soldiers, Servants of the Crown. She’s worked hard to get where she is, as she is the only female left in her class. This year one Cadet will be cut at midyear, and Renee, due to her natural female propensity towards having less upper body strength, is on the borderline. She fiercely wants to be a Servant of the Crown, partly to prove her disapproving father wrong and make something of herself and partly to serve her country and stop the political warfare. For the newly crowned teenage king is in deep water; he’s got the Family, a full bloodline of powerful and wealthy nobles who scheme to get rich, and the Vipers, a nest of bloodthirsty crooks headed by a ruthless Madam who steal children and anyone off the streets to fight in pit battles for gambling money. At the Academy, Renee’s new swordsmanship teacher, Korish Savoy, a Servant and the leader of a much decorated military company, presents a new and different challenge for Renee. As he keeps punishing her and she becomes still more determined to do well, she grows closer to Savoy and finds herself caught between her loyalty to the crown and the goal of being his Servant or saving the lives of a child and her respected teacher. Her choices throw her headlong into the deadly war between the Family, the Vipers, and the King. What is more important? Her vows or her friends?

I need to add, I’m a HUGE fan of Tamora Pierce and this book was plugged as a read-a-like. While it doesn’t quite meet the standard of Tamora Pierce’s books or Game of Thrones, it is a good read. It takes some time for the action to happen, and the worldbuilding is a little slow for the reader. Really, in my opinion, it is the relationship between Savoy and Renee that works to draw the reader in. The book does contain some violence and instances of abuse. Overall, while the main character often gets overwhelmed with all of the problems she has to face, she learns to try on her own and grows up a little in the process. She’s a little wiser, a little tougher, and more self-confident which helps her discover just how valuable she really is. Another newly published read-a-like for this book is Sara B. Larson’s Defy, of which a post will be coming out soon! (And P.S. I loved it!)

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen


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