Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Below are a few (somewhat) brief, $.02 opinions about several books I've read (or listened to) recently but don't and won't have time to review in full. Their appearance here has nothing to do with merit, many I enjoyed as much or even more than those that got the full-court press. I hope you'll consider one or two for your own TBR stack.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

This super creepy story is told in the alternating points of view of two teenagers, one of whom, Amber, is doing time at the Aurora Hills juvenile detention facility for murder. The other, Vee, is an insecure and ruthlessly ambitious dancer. Through their recollections we learn about Ori, also a dancer and the former best friend of Vee. After being convicted of a crime, Ori also finds herself at Aurora Hills, where she becomes Amber's roommate. Strange things happen, and the past and current events are spooled out in visceral and suspenseful prose. This was one of my favorite books of 2015.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

In my second-favorite YA of 2015, Mim Malone is stuck living in Mississippi with her father and stepmother when she discovers her mother back home in Cleveland is ill. Mim takes off, boarding a Greyhound bus back to her mother. Of course, she meets a variety of colorful folks along the way and also courts disaster, leading to a journey that is life-changing in more ways than one. I really liked Mim, was happy this book didn't take a particular path that would have been silly (and was there for the taking), and thoroughly enjoyed Mim's experiences and the ultimate conclusion. Plus, kickass cover.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Speaking of kickass covers, this one caught my eye right away. The story also had me by the throat until it took a turn into magical realism that took all of the wind out of it for me. Roza has gone missing. Finn knows what really happened to her, but no one really believes him and he can't remember enough to make his recollection credible. Plus, Finn, unlike his heroic, EMT brother Sean, is a bit of an oddball. At turns sinister and lovely, I was all in until that left turn into weirdness. I loved the bit of magical realism in The Walls Around Us, I think this one just pushed my envelope a bit too far. Those of you who are fans of magical realism will likely really dig this one.

Need by Joelle Charbonneau

I love a good social experiment, and Need fits the bill with a dandy. When teens in Nottawa, Wisconsin join an exciting new social network, it seems pretty harmless. In exchange for completing a task, they get something they say they need. It's no surprise teens will confuse need with want and the tasks will start to ratchet up in terms of actions and consequences. Looking at it from an adult perspective may make it obvious things can't end well and the students should have seen it coming and not been so selfish. Maybe, maybe not. Stranger things have happened, even from the adult perspective. Speaking of perspectives, this one has numerous narrators, so bring your notepad. The ending left me a bit cold, but the premise was a fun one.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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