The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

The Black Kids” by Christina Hammonds Reed is a very engaging narrative about race, violence, and self-worth. Ashley Bennet lives in Los Angeles in 1992 as an African-American high school senior. When a man named Rodney King is beaten to death, Ashely questions her place in society, as well as the decisions and microaggressions of her white friends that she had previously brushed off. She worries about her sister, who becomes involved in the riots over King’s beating and tries to come to terms with the rumor she spread about another Black classmate.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I thought the characters were very relatable and that the author portrayed a very authentic school experience. The small flashbacks to Ashley’s childhood were a nice touch to the story. I also thought Lucia (Ashley’s nanny) helped me better understand the somewhat rocky relationship Ashley had with her parents.

I would recommend this book to anyone right now, especially non-black teens wishing to educate themselves a little bit on racism. Seeing the Black experience of someone their age may be beneficial, and I found that this book had many parallels to the surge in the Black Lives Matter movement currently.

When We Were Lost by Kevin Wignall

When We Were Lost, by Kevin Wignall, tells the story of a group of high schoolers going on a trip to Costa Rica. The main character, Tom, is a bit of an outsider. He doesn’t have any friends and prefers to be by himself, but he was persuaded to go on the school trip by his teachers and guardian who were concerned about him not being social enough. He set off on the trip not planning on making any new friends, just trying to explore and get it over with. But when the plane crashes in an unknown thicket of wilderness, he is forced to collaborate with his classmates in a duel with the jungle for life or death. He surprisingly comes out of his shell and sees people in a new light. He and his classmates stumble blindly through the dangerous wilderness, just trying to survive, whether it be the breaks in the relationships of the survivors, or the physical challenges within the jungle.
Wignall writes a meaningful story with characters finding themselves in the deep danger but peacefulness of the jungle. Secret talents are showcased, friendships are made, and lives are lost. Tom and his newfound friends discover how truly grateful they are for being alive, and that every little detail matters when it comes to an environment like this. An adventurous journey built for fans of Lord of the Flies, survival stories, and adrenaline-rushing thrills.

A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson


“For these were not ordinary books the libraries kept. They were knowledge, given life. Wisdom, given voice. They sang when starlight streamed through the library’s windows. They felt pain and suffered heartbreak. Sometimes they were sinister, grotesque–but so was the world outside. And that made the world no less worth fighting for, because wherever there was darkness, there was also so much light.”
MAGICAL. BOOKS. Has there ever been a more perfect book for bookworms?
What can be better than being raised in a library – in a world full of magic and sorcerers. A world where books (or grimoires ), not only talk and sing but can also turn into demons or as they’re fondly called Maleficits. And Elizabeth – our clumsy, yet fiercely brave protagonist – lives just that life (lucky her).
Elizabeth just wants to become a warden in the library where she’s lived her whole life and stay as far away from sorcery as she can. But when the director is killed and she’s accused of being behind it, despite being guiltless, she is sent off to the city where an act of heroism (or so she thought) by her, spins her into a web of dark magic, demons, and a mission with her world and everyone she loves at stake. Add in a handsome, witty sorcerer named Nathaniel Thorn and his yellow-eyed servant/sidekick/best friend Silas – it’s a rollercoaster ride full of romance, humor, and a whole lot of trying to keep out and away from magic and trouble, but failing miserably at it.

Albeit a slow start, the book quickly has you hooked. The writing is top-notch. The plot, the wonderfully developed characters, the beautiful and magical illustrations – will have you wanting to jump into the book then and there. This book is a must read for fans of Harry Potter and Septimus Heap .

Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson

Technically, I take forever to read texts and therefore am not the best person to chat with. Which is why when I opened this book and saw that it’s in the form of text messages – I wasn’t feeling inclined to read. But once I started reading – gosh, how CUTE is this book!!!
A sweet romantic story with funny interactions, two very interesting MCs – Haley Hancock and Martin Nathaniel Munroe II (yup, neat name, and guess what, there’s two of them), and a whole lot of chatting. The plot is a simple case of misunderstandings mixed in with a not-so-love triangle , and readers will understand the storyline fairly early on, at least earlier than Haley for sure.
Haley is a smart, innocent, introvert who hates being the center of attention and considers herself to be a weirdo. And Martin – the one she’s texting – is a sweet, equally as smart, guy who is smitten by Haley and wants to get to know her. But, like most modern crushes, this also starts with the guy texting the girl to start a conversation – beginning a whirl of mistaken identity and hilarious (and sometimes embarrassing) situations. Since the two don’t have a lot in common – both coming from very contradicting home lives, makes it even more interesting to see their relationship and their growing respect for one another develop throughout the book.

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

 Bridge of Clay is a book about stories. It’s about an immigrant girl whose father sent her across the sea with the Odyssey, the Iliad and a love of the piano. It’s about a boy who loved the girl in his paintings more than the one he painted them of. It’s about a jockey and her horse and a very stubborn mule. It’s about a family. It’s about Clay and his brothers. It’s about how everything and everyone has a story if you look hard enough, and those stories shape us into the people we are.

Clay Dunbar’s mother died when he was in middle school. His dad left a few months later. For years it’s just been him and his four brothers and that’s been okay. They made it okay. But now their father is back, and with a request. He wants one of his sons to come back home with him, and help him build a bridge.
Bridge of Clay is a bittersweet story of a father and son reconnecting after years of estrangement. The main plot is interwoven with the lives of the people around Clay, a resonant reminder that there are always other sides to the story and always past experiences that influence the present. Once again, Zusak thoughtfully weaves a masterful tale to stir the hearts of readers everywhere.

Books Discussion and Signing with Lisa Jensen, Beast

Lisa Jensen Bookshop Santa Cruz

Books Discussion and Signing with Lisa Jensen, Beast
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at 7:00pm
at Bookshop Santa Cruz

Bookshop Santa Cruz welcomes local author Lisa Jensen for a book discussion and signing of her new book Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge. This book is a great summer read for a range of ages. They say Château Beaumont is cursed. Servant-girl Lucie can’t believe such foolishness about handsome Jean-Loup, Chevalier de Beaumont, master of the estate. But the chevalier’s cruelty is revealed, and Lucie vows to see him suffer. A wisewoman grants her wish with a spell that transforms Jean-Loup into terrifying Beast, reflecting the monster he is inside.

But Beast is nothing like the chevalier. Jean-Loup would never tend his roses so patiently, attempt poetry, or express remorse for the wrong done to Lucie. Gradually, Lucie comes to realize that Beast is an entirely separate creature, with a heart more human than Jean-Loup’s ever was.

Lucie dares to hope that noble Beast has permanently replaced cruel Jean-Loup—until an innocent beauty arrives at the chateau with the power to break the spell.

Filled with gorgeous writing, magic and fierce emotion, Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge will challenge all you think you know about good and evil, and beauty and beastliness.

“When is beauty shaped by ugliness? When does a simple fairy tale give way to the dark textures beneath its surface? When Lisa Jensen takes it on, that’s when.  Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge is a love story, and so much more.” — Laurie R. King, New York Times bestselling author of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and Island Of the Mad

Lisa Jensen is the author of the adult novels Alias Hook and The Witch From the Sea. A longtime film critic with Good Times, her reviews are also posted on Rotten Tomatoes. She lives in Santa Cruz.

This free event will take place in Bookshop Santa Cruz. Chairs are usually set up for open seating about an hour before the event start time.

Salvage Review

salvage cover


Salvage, by Alexandra Duncan is set in a world hundreds of years in the future where earth isn’t the only inhabited planet. Due to catastrophic flooding on Earth, many humans fled to other planets, beginning the space age. Many colonists also fled into deep space to mine the mineral rich asteroids and planets. On the ships out in deep space males rule and women are treated as objects. Ava, the main character, is a young women living on one of the spaceships. She longs to have kids and can’t wait to marry her crush but right when she thinks everything’s perfect, it all goes wrong. Facing death, she flees from her ship to earth where she sees how humans actually live.


Duncan really swept me away with Salvage!  Normally YA books don’t approach the topic of gender equality but Duncan showed how real the situations are for mistreated women and how what we see isn’t always the truth. The best part of the book was how the author showed everything through Ava’s eyes so realistically; I could imagine myself right there with her. Salvage gave me everything I expected in a sci-fi thriller and more, showing that everyone is equal no matter how different they seem.


For fans of Ender’s Game, and other sci-fi thrillers, Salvage is where it’s at!


The Living – Great Adventure Novel – On Bookshelves Now

The Living

The Living by Matt de la Pena, was surprisingly one of the best adventure novels I’ve ever read. Most adventure novels are just adrenaline and action but The Living was more than that. The story deals with social barriers, unreturned love and corruption while still providing suspense and excitement.

Shy is a character that starts out looking normal and kind of bland but as the story goes on, and his life is destroyed, Shy shows that he’s a survivor at heart.

The plotline of The Living starts off a little slow but as the story progresses it gets deeper and reveals the darker sides of people. Once I got into The Living I just couldn’t put it down! The witness of a suicide pulls you in and I loved how de la Pena unfolds each disaster in a totally new way.  He makes you think the worst is over when there’s more to come. One of my favorite parts of the book dealt with Shy’s crush, Carmen. He really likes her but she doesn’t know it. She’s engaged to be married but it’s clear that she and Shy share a deep connection. What I like most though, is the fact that their relationship isn’t the focus of the story.  The Living is mostly about Shy’s story with Carmen as a side character. However, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like to see more of Carmen in the next book! It’ll be cool to see how their world and relationship unfolds in the sequel!

If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games and other mysterious thrillers, The Living is the book for you!

Proxy – For fans of Legend, and Other Dystopian Thrillers


Proxy, by Alex London, is set in a futuristic dystopian Denver hundreds of years in the future. The society is the only civilization on the continent and runs on the “proxy” system where the rich own the poor’s debt and the poor take the rich’s punishments. Syd is a poor citizen living a boring and terrible life because his “patron”, Knox (a rich person), is basically a criminal. One day Knox accidentally goes too far when he kills a girl and can’t face the consequences. This event threatens to ruin both of their lives and forces Syd and Knox to see the truth behind their society.

I loved how London isn’t afraid to include a homosexual main character.  It helps make the story more interesting and also gives insight on how someone’s sexuality doesn’t change who they are. The best part of the book by far was how the author presents and describes the city throughout the story. The description is so intricate and seamless that I could basically see London’s futuristic world before me. Proxy gave me a whole new view on how society works and showed me that everything really does come with a price.

For fans of Legend, and other dystopian thrillers, Proxy is the book to get!

Furious – Set in Santa Cruz – Great Book Find


Furious, by Jill Wolfson is set in Santa Cruz and is about three girls who all have terrible lives. Meg is a foster child living with an abusive and neglectful foster mom and her school life isn’t any better either.  She’s picked on and shunned by everyone except for her best friend.  Alex is a poor surfer girl with a deadbeat father and no friends.  All of the surfer guys harass and bully her.  Stephanie is a nature activist with parents that are the leading real estate owners in the area.  Stephanie is made fun of at school for loving the environment while her parents’ real estate company goes around destroying it.  These three teens wind up meeting Ambrosia who shows them how to fix their lives and the people that they should be.

My favorite part of Furious is Meg’s romance with her crush, Brendon. It starts out nice and romantic but turns horribly wrong when Ambrosia secretly sets them up for failure. Wolfson did an amazing job portraying their emotions and feelings so accurately that it was like I was looking into their heads.

If you’re a fan of The Percy Jackson series and other mythological thrillers, Furious is the book to find!