Archive | YA Worth Reading

The Teacher Recommends: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

Today’s post by middle school teacher and YA book reviewer, Melissa Carpenter | @MelissaCarp

Dirty Little SecretFirst of all, let’s take a second to love this book cover. There’s not even an ounce of musical talent in me, and yet I look at this and I want to BE that girl. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t even love country music, but… it’s just too cool.

In Dirty Little Secret, Jennifer Echols (who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors ever) takes us on a trip to the heart of Nashville’s music scene to watch the heartbreakingly beautiful beginnings of a great romance.

Bailey, an eighteen year old with unbelievable fiddle-playing talent, has been sent to live with her grandfather while her parents tour around with her younger sister, Julie, who was picked over Bailey for a recording contract. As part of Julie’s coming rise to fame, their parents and the recording company have essentially asked Bailey to give up what she loves best — playing music. When Bailey meets Sam, who just happens to be both devastatingly handsome and also the front man of a band in need of a fiddle player, she can’t quite resist being pulled back into the music scene.

The resulting story is a fascinating one full of characters I’d love to spend a week with, enjoying the Nashville music scene and hearing what must be some excellent music. Echols is a master at writing romantic relationships — from the moment the two characters meet each other, discover the chemistry, all the way up until they’re finally actually together — you feel like you’re there with them. Like you’re a part of the story instead of just watching it.

Echols writes romantic dramas (like this one) for MTV Books and romantic comedies for Simon Pulse. She also writes adult novels, one of which is the beginning of a series involving PR agents for celebrities behaving badly, called Star Crossed. No matter which Echols book you pick up, you’ll enjoy it, but I can’t recommend Dirty Little Secret enough. It’s definitely my favorite of hers so far!

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YA Worth Reading: Cascade, Lisa Bergren

Review by Nicole O’Dell

Back in February, I reviewed WATERFALL, book one in the highly acclaimed River of Time series. Have you read it yet? If not, you need to, because you’re going to want to get your hands on book two immediately. And you’re in luck! CASCADE releases today.

CASCADE is the perfect follow up to WATERFALL and picks up right where book one left off. Gabi Betarrini (17) and her sister, Lia (15), are back at it again. Though they’ve returned from the Medival past to to their mom’s current-day Etruscan archeological dig, Gabi can’t stay. She must return to Medival Italy because Marcello, the handsome knight she fell in love with in book one, is in danger.

Still dressed in their Medival attire, Gabi and Lia convince their mom to travel back in time with them. When they arrive at their destination, they find themselves in the midst of accusations and backstabbing. Who are their friends, and who are their enemies? Even they don’t know for sure.  In the midst of a war, the sisters realize that they are targeted. With a couple of swords and some blind faith,  these two teenagers are forced to fight for their very lives.

The combination of romance, adventure, and humor reach a delectable balance in CASCADE,  and Lisa Bergren has done an awesome job of keeping the characters vibrant. The River of Time Series is one of my favorite YA picks so far. The bar is set for future YA romance.  And, though the series is definitely YA fiction, I truly believe that any reader would devour these books.

That all being said, I do want to issue a bit of a disclaimer for the squeamish among you. CASCADE does portray quite a bit of violence–even some torture. I wouldn’t say it’s at all gory or sensationalistic–it is true to the story–I just wanted to make sure that any sensitive readers knew what they were getting into.

Be sure to read WATERFALL first, if you haven’t. Then grab CASCADE right away, because TORRENT, the third and final book in the River of Time series, will follow in September, 2011–right around the corner. Thank you to David C. Cook, publisher, for putting these books out in such rapid succession!

Read an Excerpt (WATERFALL):

Read an Excerpt (CASCADE):

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 30 books, with more than 1.5 million copies sold. She just finished writing a Colorado historical trilogy (the first book,  Breathe,  Sing and  Claim), and has begun a teen series called River of Time (Waterfall, book 1, comes out in February 2011).

Lisa’s time is split between managing home base, writing (including a fair amount of travel writing), consulting and freelance editing (with a little speaking here and there). She’s married to Tim, a liturgical sculptor, graphic designer and musician. They have three kids—Olivia (15), Emma (12) and Jack (7).


We have a copy of Cascade to give away to one of you! If you’d like to enter to win, leave a question for Lisa Bergren in your comment. I’m going to be interviewing her on Teen Talk Radio in a couple of weeks, and I’ll pass your questions along to her then.

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Young Adult Worth Reading – London Confidential

Hi there!
Nicole O’Dell here. I am so excited to bring you London Confidential, a great new series of books by Sandra Byrd and Tyndale House. You should check out the trailer—how often do you get to listen to a teenager with a British accent?

Bestselling author Sandra Byrd has a new fiction series for teen and tween girls out called London Confidential. This is a four-book series that follows 15-year-old Savannah Smith around as her family moves to London from the United States, showing how “Savvy ” deals with the pressures of trying to fit in, make friends, and live out her faith.

Savvy is the perfect fifteen-year-old character to captivate the hearts of the targeted 9-12 year-old reader. She’s interesting and compelling, but real. Savvy struggles with the same things every tween and teen struggles with, and the age-old battle of trying to fit in as the new girl in school is ramped up when Savvy is dropped into a completely different culture.

I loved the quick, witty writing style and the unique approach to a YA series. The idea of living overseas is interesting to everyone, so tweens and teens will enjoy learning how it works out for Savvy. My ten-year-old daughter, Emily, dove right into the first book as soon as I received them. She gave it a huge thumbs up and has already started the second one. She wanted to know what it would take to be an exchange student or move to London.

I actually had the privilege of interviewing Sandra on Teen Talk Radio this past Thursday night. We had a blast chatting about teens and why we do what we do. She’s an exciting and vibrant person doing some awesome things! You should check out the show–Sandra is on for the entire first half. Visit to see a list of all available podcasts, or click HERE to go right to Sandra’s.

Here are a few words from Sandra Byrd just for you…

What was your inspiration for this series?
God is good, all the time. If something that seems bad happens, pray, and wait. Work through it, and promise yourself that you will look back on it in a few hours or days or months and you’ll see it from a different perspective. A lot of times we beg God to let things turn out the way we want, or to tell us how they are going to be. But if he did, every time, we’d never need faith. And scripture tells us that our faith is what is pleasant to him, in fact, it says, without faith, we cannot please him. So he’s not going to rearrange everything so that you never need faith, or he’d be rearranging things so he’d never be pleased with you. Build your faith muscle little by little, with heavier and heavier circumstances, and you’ll be totally buff. The Bible says that kind of faith is what is required to bring hope. And we all want hope, right? These books are about having fun and having hope while you wait for everything to turn out okay.

Have you ever lived overseas?
I did move a lot as a child, but not overseas. I did stay in Europe for two short periods during high school, though, as an exchange student: once in Germany when I was 15, and once in France when I was 17. I’ve been back to France in the past couple of years and spent two weeks in London this year. So I get there regularly, though not as often as I’d like!

Is Savannah much like you?
Savvy is some like me, in that she likes to write and has some self confidence crises, and some like my daughter in that she’s fashion-conscious and bold. I think there are little bits of me in every character I write – even Aunt Maude! – but I’ve never consciously modeled one of my characters after myself.

Other than Savvy, which character stands out to you the most?
Oh, definitely Aunt Maude. I wish she lived next door! But then I’d have to move to London. Hmmm ….

I’m pleased to announce that in generous Tyndale House fashion, we’re able to give one very blessed reader a FULL set of the four London Confidential books.

Just leave a comment to enter to win these books, and, while you’re commenting, we’d love to know if you’ve ever been overseas. If not, where would you love to go?

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Young Adult Worth Reading

nicole o'dellToday’s post comes from Nicole O’Dell, author and She Reads YA reviewer.

“In this medieval fantasy debut, idealistic servant Achan Cham dreams of becoming a Kingsguard Knight, while Vrell Sparrow disguises herself as a boy to escape an arranged marriage. She has a supernatural gift of being able to communicate to Achan without words. This thoroughly entertaining and smart tale will appeal to fans of Donita K. Paul and J.R.R. Tolkien. Highly recommended for CF and fantasy collections.” –Library Journal–Library Journal, April 2009

I’ll start right off by admitting that I’m not a big fantasy reader. I can’t remember the last fantasy book I actually read. It’s not that I have anything against fantasy or spec fiction–in fact, I just may have to start adding it to my reading list now that I’ve been completely captivated by Jill Williamson’s debut novel, By Darkness

By Darkness Hid portrays a speculative world of danger as it lives out the age-old battle between good and evil with swords and the gift of bloodvoicing. (Intrigued, yet?) So many times, as I was reading, I forgot that Er’Rets wasn’t real. That’s the true mark of great fantasy, in my opinion.

I felt myself tense up at important scenes and wanted to shield my eyes at others–nope, not going to tell you what they were. Some of the danger and extreme situations would have been over-the-top and unbelievable if they weren’t crafted so well.

The underlying Christian message is that of God’s light prevailing in the darkness. That message is skillfully woven throughout the book without being overdone.

If you have a teen who enjoys this genre, or even one who doesn’t, this is a must read. I’d actually encourage readers of all ages to pick up all three books from the Blood of Kings trilogy as they’re available.

As a bonus, Jill answered some interview questions for us, letting us look a little deeper into her life.

Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?

JillHeadShotI grew up in Alaska with no electricity. My biggest dream was to get out of Alaska and experience “real life.” I wanted to be a fashion designer, so I eventually went to New York City for a year to finish that degree. We moved to Los Angeles next because my husband wanted to work in the movie industry and I could do fashion there. It didn’t take long for our hearts to change.

My husband went back to school to become a youth pastor. I stayed home with our kids and started writing articles and short stories. I got hooked on writing a young adult novel. So hooked that it drove me crazy and I had to put it aside and write another story, then another, and another†¦

We now live in Eastern Oregon where my husband is a youth pastor. Ministry is my life. Teens are a big part of that. God has allowed me to write and teach about writing and I’m thrilled about that. (Wedding dresses were a lot more work, believe it or not.)

Actually, I do believe that.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up and help my husband get the kids off to school. I try to have prayer/Bible study/worship time and a walk on the treadmill. My day is always better when I do all that first, but I’ve been known to skip parts of it too often. I try to write each morning, but again, I get distracted, usually by emails. I try to work on my writing until lunch, then after lunch, check emails and critique the work of others. The idea is to stop when the kids get home from school. Whether or not I do, depends on my deadlines.

Describe your surrounding while you write…

I sit in the back room of my house at a big desk covered in piles of paperwork. (My “to do” piles.) This room has a wall of windows on my right that overlooks the back yard, the John Day River, and the “mountains” beyond. It’s beautiful. (I put mountains in quotes because I’m from Alaska, and these John Day “mountains” are really more like hills in comparison. They are still beautiful.)

How did you choose your genre?

Could someone like me really write anything else? I love weird stuff. When I was nine, my parents rented a TV and a VCR and all three Star Wars movies. We didn’t have electricity, so Dad started up the generator and we watched them straight through. It was the most amazing day. I think it opened my imagination up to the speculative genre. And that same year, the first movie I saw in the theater was ET. I love to read all genres. I’ve even written some contemporary novels, but I just seem to gravitate toward the speculative stuff. When you love something, you’re drawn to it and you invest more in it. That’s true for me with my speculative stories.

With which character do you most identify?

With Vrell Sparrow. She is a girl who is pretending to be something she is not. What girl has never done that at some point in her life? Plus, Vrell has a controlling seed that comes from her own insecurities. I so have that problem too. God’s been working on me over the years and I’m learning to trust God and others, which is quite difficult and freeing. Arman is working on Vrell too. Vrell also tends to point out injustice, which is something I’m prone to do. She is also creative and extremely loyal.

6. Can you tell us about the other books in the series?

By Darkness Hid is the first book in the trilogy. It’s about how Achan and Vrell came to be in this mess, how they met each other, and how they discovered their bloodvoicing abilities.

And I’m working on book three right now. It’s called From Darkness Won and will probably be out April 2011. Sign up for my Facebook fan page or the E-zine on my website (look in the top right corner) to get updates on book three.

Where can we find you on the web and where can we buy your books?

I’m everywhere! My website is I’m also on Facebook, MySpace, Shoutlife, Shelfari, GoodReads, Twitter, Amazon†¦

On top of that, I run two blogs. The first is Novel Teen Book Reviews at It’s a website that reviews clean teen fiction. This is a great resource to see what books are available in the Christian market for teens. The other blog is for teen authors, though adult authors may find some useful tips too.

And if you are looking to buy one of my books, online go to,, or You can also buy an autographed copy from me through my website. Many libraries have the first book and if they don’t they would likely order it if you ask. And you can request your local bookstore order my books too.

Thanks so much, Jill. I’ve loved hearing about your life and your writing area. For some reason, I’m fascinated by where authors write.

I hope you’ll all take a look at this fantastic book trailer. If this doesn’t make you want to read this trilogy†¦

Jill has graciously offered a winner the choice of a signed copy of either By Darkness Hid, book number one, or To Darkness Fled, book number two in the trilogy. As always, just leave a comment on this post and the winner will be selected at random on Friday.

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