that book and what I saw again here was a great mixture of familiar romance tropes that we all know and love, and amazing women doing important work. Theres a magic in taking the familiar and infusing it with nerdy facts and science that reminds readers they do not have to be just one thing, to fit in just one box, or limit their goals and aspirations to what other people expect from them.
Bee is a great main character- shes complicated and messy, she's dealing with past trauma that impacts her in ways she doesn't really always understand, but she's also smart and confident and navigating a world that isn't neccessarily built for her, and she's succeeding. The reality of Bee's life, that there are times she has to defer to others combined with the fact that she has found a way to actually make changes in that system is something I think a lot of readers can relate too.
Plus, she gets the guy. Levi is a perfect romantic lead- he's stubborn and bad with his emotions, he makes a million bad choices, but also backs Bee up no matter what. He's dealing with his own issues, but is willing to figure it out and move forward. This book employs so many good tropes- I love a good enemies to lovers- and some of miscommunications are crystal clear to the reader even when they are not to Bee and Levi... but, and I say this for a lot of books, it's okay to be a little predictable.
In romance especially, we read it because we want the HEA, the exciting part is finding out how they get there. Love on the Brain is a fantastic journey to a totally satisfying ending for more then one character. I can't wait for everyone else to get their hands on this one when it comes out.
This Appearing House by Ally Malinenko
Release Date: August 16, 2022
Why I love this book: Ally Malinenko is one of my favorite authors- her book Ghost Girl nailed middle grade horror perfectly and my students took it out consistently all year. So I was extremely excited to read This Appearing House. This book is absolutely everything I hoped for and then even more.
First- the horror. This book again hits middle grade horror perfectly. Parts of it are absolutely terrifying. I’m going to avoid spoilers here, but suffice it to say- the house is sufficiently scary, and there is at least one scene that will probably give me nightmares. Main character Jac faces it all and finds a way through and it is a fantastically scary journey.
Second- this book is about so much more then a scary book about a house of horrors. The scariest things are in Jac’s head as she deals with possibility of her cancer returning. This is a kid who has been through the worst, she has come out the other side, but the specter of disease is always right behind her, and that too is a scary journey.
Malinenko finds the perfect balance here- and kids (and adults) will be better for having read this book. My students need to see that they can face scary things. I really can not wait to hand this one to my students in the fall.
Jumper by Melanie Crowder
Release Date: June 21, 2022
Why I loved this book: Approximately 25 years ago, when I was a teenager, I saw my first article about smoke jumpers. I was ona road trip to Yellowstone and the idea of someone jumping out of a plane to fight fire was captivating. I was in Yellowstone shortly after the fire in 1988, I've seen how quickly a fire can rip through the wilderness, and the devestation that it leaves in its wake. I've also studied land management, attended innumerable ranger talks about how you have to do your best to prepare with controled burns and cleaning out the underbrush when you can, about why fire is actually good for the forest, and why you have to be ready to protect the buildings and people if the fire rages to close. To say I've been interested in wilderness fires for decades sounds odd, but there's something about how the fires move and especially the people who choose to step in front of them and try to contain them, is interesting. So when I saw this book up for review I knew I had to grab it if I could. Jumper didn't disappoint at all.
Focusing primarily on Bianca, a girl fresh out of high school who has dreamed of being a smoke jumper for what seems like her whole life, and due to several factors she is getting her chance way earlier then anticipated. Is she ready? yes. She has prepared forever, but she also has one giant thing that can hold her back, and that is her diabetes. It's hard to manage and she knows she can't disclose it to her trainers because they will send her packing, so while she knows mentally she can do this thing, she also knows that at any moment her body might betray her.
The story starts towards the end, we know immediately that something has gone horrible wrong. Bianca seems like she's had a close call with a fire, she's being interrograted about something, and she's both angry and sad... but at the outset we have no idea what's happened. This was a GREAT intro, in my mind I immediately began thinking about what I thought the issue was, all throughout the story I felt the pieces coming together as Bianca made her way through her smoke jumper training with her best friend Jason and the other Rookies. I felt like the story was leading us one way as she dealt with other recruits, her trainers, and her disease. And then... then I was wrong. Whatever I thought was going to happen to land Bianca covered in smoke, angry and being questioned, was not even close to what actually happened and the story is so much better for it.
I'm not going to give the twist away, but it works just right. It hits you in the gut and then sets you up for everything that comes in the last part of the book perfectly.
What I like best about this book is that you can tell how much research went into it to make it feel real. The author's note at the back makes it clear that while its highly unlikely a teenager would ever make smoke jumper, everything else about the training and things that the smoke jumpers experience has been researches so that those aspects of the story are spot on. I love research, truly, so I always appreciate when you can tell an author put the work in to really nail it. All that care makes it so easy to fall into the story and be invested in where Bianca is and where she's going. I would read 100 more books following Bianca as she becomes the smoke jumper she always wanted to be.
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