Tag Archives: running

Review: The Long Run by James Acker

The Long Run by James Acker

The Long Run
James Acker
Inkyard Press
Published February 7, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Long Run

“A boldly authentic new voice in queer fiction.” —Abdi Nazemian, author of Stonewall Honor book Like a Love Story and The Chandler Legacies

Two track and field athletes find an unexpected but powerful love in this unapologetically blunt and unforgettably real YA debut.

Sebastian Villeda is over it. Over his rep. Over his bros. Over being “Bash the Flash,” fastest sprinter in South Jersey. His dad is gone, his mom is dead, and his stepfather is clueless. Bash has no idea what he wants out of life. Until he meets Sandro.
Sandro Miceli is too nice for his own good. The middle child in an always-growing, always-screaming Italian family, Sandro walks around on a broken foot to not bother his busy parents. All he wants is to get out and never look back.
When fate—in the form of a party that gets busted—brings these two very different boys together, neither of them could’ve predicted finding a love that they’d risk everything for…

My Review

I was excited to pick up THE LONG RUN in large part because it’s the first time I can remember a big Italian family being featured in a young adult book. I’m from a big Italian family, so I was really excited to see that portrayed on the page.

It was a little disappointing that they were kind of the bad guys in the story. Like, it was very believable, though heartbreaking, that the brash, high volume, high intensity behavior was ultimately weaponized against Sandro. It left him feeling completely bowled over and like it would never be safe to be himself. Which made sense considering how the family treated him. I did like the conversation he had with his mom late in the story and the things she said to fill in some of the reasons behind why things happened the way they did.

I also really liked Bash’s emotional journey, going from someone who couldn’t seem to get through a conversation about his feelings, to someone who was learning to do it, and trying to build his own support network.

Sandro and Bash are both notorious athletes at their school. I thought the decision to feature two athletes in a M/M romance was cool, too– again something I haven’t often seen. Early in the story, during the time that Bash is standoffish and emotionally closed, I had a harder time getting into the book. It was hard to find things about his character that I liked at that point.

But as I read, and as I watched Sandro and Bash grow, not only in their exploration of a relationship together, but pursuing their own personal growth, I felt more drawn into the story.

On the whole, I would say I enjoyed THE LONG RUN, though it didn’t scratch the “big Italian family in YA” itch for me in a satisfying way. I think fans of BEATING HEART BABY by Lio Min or OPENLY STRAIGHT by Bill Konigsberg should check this one out.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Bash is biracial and bisexual. Sandro is gay.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently. Bash’s friend and Sandro’s family use the F-slur. Bash and Sandro talk about it at one point and use the word back and forth with each other, as though reclaiming it.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two boys. In more than one scene, they undress together. Some brief or vague descriptions of them having sex.

Spiritual Content
Bash adds a prayer bead to his necklace every year since his mother died. References to prayer.

Violent Content
Bash and another boy get into a fight.

Drug Content
Bash and Sandro go to a party where teens are drinking alcohol. Bash gets drunk and sick. Bash’s friend smokes pot, but Bash doesn’t join him. Bash and Sandro drink alcohol together in a couple scenes. Sandro’s mom and Bash’s stepdad both serve alcohol to them with a meal.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE LONG RUN in exchange for my honest review.

Review: MacKenzie’s Last Run by Gayle Rosengren

MacKenzie’s Last Run
Gayle Rosengren
HenschelHaus Publishing
Published September 1, 2022

Amazon | Goodreads

About MacKenzie’s Last Run

Thirteen-year-old MacKenzie (Mac) Lawrence secretly blames himself for his father’s death in a mall shooting. In his grief and guilt, he has pulled away from everyone, even his twin sister Tessa. When their mother announces her plans to remarry barely two years after Dad’s death Mac is furious and runs away in an attempt to force her to break off the engagement.

Unfortunately, nothing goes as Mac plans. He ends up seriously injured, miles from home, unable to reach out for help, while clues he inadvertently left behind suggest he’s been kidnapped—possibly by Mom’s fiancé—and set his twin sister Tessa on a desperate search to find him. But she’d better hurry, because the clock is ticking, and Mac is running out of time.

My Review

The first thing I saw as I opened MACKENZIE’S LAST RUN to read it was the article from the paper reporting on his disappearance and police believed he was a victim of kidnapping. I thought it was an interesting choice from a writing perspective to start with that. So that, as a reader, I was kind of anticipating that event at some point. I worried that it would make the story anticlimactic.

But as I read, I found myself only more deeply hooked into what would happen to Mac and whether Tessa would be able to find him before it was too late.

I read the book in one sitting. I kept reading one more chapter all the way until the end, when I finally felt I could breathe again.

For me, not only could I not put the book down, but the story pulled me in despite its beginning. To overcome a reveal like that on the first page or use it in such a clever way made me feel even more like this book was worth reading.

I loved the way memories about Mac and Tessa’s dad were dropped in to critical moments in the story, and the way Mac’s adventure helped him face some of the things he’d been, well, running from. Both Tessa’s and Mac’s characters drew me in and had me rooting for them. Each chapter is told from Tessa’s or Mac’s point of view. I loved the balance that brought to the story and the exploration of their relationship as twins who’d lost their dad.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this book, and I hope the author writes lots more.

Content Notes for MacKenzie’s Last Run

Content warning for brief descriptions of gun violence. Some descriptions of injuries from a knife and a fall.

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Mac and Tessa are twins whose father was killed in a grocery store shooting.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Tessa’s mom makes her and her brother attend church with her. She says Mac “needs it.” Tessa is okay with church, but doesn’t seem to feel much of a personal connection to faith. In one scene she tries to pray for Mac, but worries she’s doing it wrong because she forgot to say, “Amen,” so she starts over.

Violent Content
Some description of the shooting that killed the twins’ dad.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of MACKENZIE’S LAST RUN in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Chase by Bradley Caffee

The Chase (The Chase Runner #1)
Bradley Caffee
Mountain Brook Ink
Published June 15, 2021

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Chase

Win the Chase. Be the hero. Or die trying.​

The chaos and anarchy following the Great Collapse nearly brought the world to its knees until the unchanging Law brought order and peace. Generations later, the twelve alliances of the World Coalition come together once a year to allow their best and brightest young people to compete in the Chase. The prize? A chance to pass exactly one new law.

The son of two former Chase runners, Willis Thomson is the top trainee in the Western Alliance. With the expectations of the world and his heritage driving him, he leads his elite Red Team as they prepare for his moment to become a coveted Law-changer.

Perryn Davis, the new leader of the Blue Team, struggles to survive as she competes as one of the designated losers. She knows that losing means genetic recoding, a process that cannot go on indefinitely, and longs to age out of the program before it kills her.

When a mysterious new racer with knowledge of the outside shows up at their orbiting training center, the natural order of the Western Alliance trainees is upended. In a world where too much knowledge is dangerous, Willis and Perryn find themselves in a race to save their lives and uncover the hidden underbelly of the peaceful World Coalition.

My Review

THE CHASE had some elements that I really enjoyed and some things that I struggled with, so I’m a little bit torn in writing my review.

I liked the concept of the race. It reminded me a little bit of THE HUNGER GAMES, where the hopes for the future are pinned on a chosen few of the kids, and the world is broken up into allied areas under one central government. It also reminded me a little bit of DIVERGENT in the way the runners were split up into teams caught in a high stakes competition.

One of the things I struggled with was the way the characters related to each other. There were some relationships that seemed nuanced and layered– like Jez’s relationship with Willis. It was clear that she had some feelings for him that he didn’t recognize, and that it caused a lot of tension. I loved that and the way it was present but not overly highlighted.

I kind of didn’t understand Willis and Perryn’s relationship, though. It’s clear he’s attracted to her, but I wasn’t totally sure I understood why? It kind of read like he felt sorry for her or was attracted to her as a damsel in distress? Their relationship seemed kind of simplistic or shallow to me. I wasn’t sure I understood the connection enough to invest in hoping they eventually got together.

On the whole, I think the concept of the race is interesting. I wish the relationships between characters and some of the characters themselves had more complexity. Some of the issues the story raised were unexpected and interesting. I could see fans of Andrew Klavan reading and enjoying this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Major characters are white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Lots of name-calling and insulting. No profanity.

Romance/Sexual Content
Some obvious attraction between a boy and girl.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Situations of peril. One of the team leaders verbally and physically abuses other runners. The person in charge of the teams also verbally abuses runners. One runner threatens and hits another. Runners try to sabotage and even kill each other.

Runners who don’t perform well are forced to undergo a medical procedure.

Drug Content
A couple of runners are drugged against their will.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.

Review: These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin

These Vengeful Hearts
Katherine Laurin
Inkyard Press
Published September 8, 2020

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About These Vengeful Hearts

Anyone can ask the Red Court for a favor…but every request comes at a cost. And once the deed is done, you’re forever in their debt.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

My Review

It took me a few chapters to get into this book. Revenge stories aren’t really something I typically enjoy, but this seemed like it might be more of a reckoning type situation rather than revenge, so I really wanted to give it a chance. Something about it reminded me of PANIC by Lauren Oliver, which I really liked.

Once I was a few chapters in, I started to get really into the story. I love the sisterly devotion between Ember and April. They respect each other’s autonomy, but they love each other and desperately want to protect each other, even when it hurts them.

I also found myself really drawn to Ember’s friendship (which I guess I use loosely?) with Haley. I liked that they have this transactional thing on the surface, but I totally sensed Haley’s loneliness and the potential for Ember and Haley to really bond over normal stuff.

As Ember gets in deeper and deeper with the Red Court, she faces some ugly truths about herself. I liked that she struggled with those parts of herself and even felt disturbed by some of the things that excited her.

On the whole, I felt like this was a pretty engrossing story– I read it in less than 24 hours– and though it explored some darker territory in terms of power and revenge, I didn’t feel like it glorified revenge.

I think fans of PANIC by Lauren Oliver or SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers should definitely put this one on their reading lists.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Ember’s best friend, Gideon, is Korean and gay. Ember’s sister is paraplegic.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Kissing between two adults having an affair.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Ember’s sister was injured in an accident which caused a broken femur and a broken spine and left her unable to walk. The story includes some brief descriptions of that accident.

Drug Content
Ember and a friend swipe glasses of wine at an art gala. Ember takes a sip of beer at a house party where other teens are drinking.

Note: I received a free copy of THESE VENGEFUL HEARTS in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.

About Katherine Laurin

Website | Twitter | Instagram

Katherine Laurin lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons, and tiny dog. When she’s not writing, Katherine enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, and listening to true crime podcasts. These Vengeful Hearts is her first young adult novel.

Review: Freerunner by Kathy Cassel

Kathy Cassel
Elk Lake Publishing
Published May 16, 2020

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About Freerunner

Night is Kia’s favorite time, when she freeruns to outdistance the memories of abuse she suffered as a young child. But when former reality television star Terrence Jones arrives at their school as the new head track coach, things begin to change in unpredictable ways.

Kia tries out for the team to fit in, but just as she’s gaining a new sense of normal, her abuser steps back into her life. Not only that, but being on the track team causes even more turmoil. Why does the assistant coach, Cassandra Clark, dislike Terrence Jones so much, and even more troubling, why does Coach Clark dislike her so much?

As the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, Kia realizes she has to choose between running from her past or saving a child from the same sort of abuse she suffered. But will she have the courage to do so?

Set against the backdrop of the sport of freerunning, Kia must decide whether she will continue running or face her past abuser in order to save another child.

My Review

I feel like this is going to be a difficult review to write– not because the book was bad, but because I am still sorting through my feelings on it.

First, what I liked: the easy friendship between Thorn and Kiana was great. I loved the way they stuck up for each other and bonded over their shared love of freerunning. I liked that the story wasn’t about them developing a romantic relationship.

The family relationships are complicated (in a good way). Kiana’s mom isn’t making good choices, but she reads as a desperate woman who’s barely keeping her head above water. That’s no excuse for the things she does, but it makes her a complex character.

As I read, I felt the sinister nature of the relationship between Kiana and her grandfather. There are no graphic descriptions of him hurting anyone, but I had no trouble believing him capable of it. And the way he flipped things around to deflect blame from himself and used charm and fake innocence to avoid judgment or consequences was super creepy. Believable and creepy.

On the other side, the story raises a couple of issues that get left unaddressed. In one scene, Kiana’s grandfather leads a little girl from the church toward his car, claiming he has permission to take her home. The children’s director tells him no one is authorized to do this without having written consent from the parent first.

Not long after that, Kiana’s coach insists on giving her a ride home from the church because it’s dark out, and he feels it’s unsafe for her to walk home.

Kiana also discovers her grandfather lurking around her school and track meets, and immediately she feels creeped out by this. In one scene, her track coach finds Kiana and Thorn freerunning in a sketchy part of town.

In both of those sets of instances, both men do very similar things. Obviously Kiana’s history with them makes a huge difference in how she feels about this, but I wished that the story drew a more clear line on what’s safe versus unsafe behavior. I felt like, though his motives seemed to be pure, Kiana’s coach should not have crossed those lines.

I think having those two characters– the coach/hero and the creepy grandfather both committing some of the same actions is what made it stand out to me.

Overall, though, I enjoyed reading a story that followed a girl interested in freerunning and track. I think fans of THE THING WITH FEATHERS by McCall Hoyle will find FREERUNNER to their liking.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Kiana’s mom is white and she believes her dad is black. Her grandfather sexually abused her when she was younger.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
A couple of racial slurs and references to them.

Romance/Sexual Content
References to sexual abuse. No graphic descriptions. Reference to a couple being caught having sex (not shown).

Spiritual Content
Kiana joins a church group and learns about trusting God from her track coach.

Violent Content
Multiple references to sexual abuse (not graphically described). References to physical abuse and brief descriptions of a woman killed by her abuser. Reference to a group attacking a man in prison, leaving him in critical condition. A man kidnaps a girl. Someone dies falling from a building.

Drug Content
A woman drinks beers after work.

Note: I received a free copy of FREERUNNER in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.

Review: Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

Not Now, Not Ever
Lily Anderson
St. Martin’s Press
Published on November 21, 2017

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About Not Now, Not Ever
Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn’t going to do this summer.

1. She isn’t going to stay home in Sacramento, where she’d have to sit through her stepmother’s sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn’t going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn’t going to the Air Force summer program on her mother’s base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender’s Game, Ellie’s seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it’s much less Luke/Yoda/”feel the force,” and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn’t appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she’d be able to defeat afterwards.

What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she’s going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?

This summer’s going to be great.

My Review
I thought the connections between Not Now, Not Ever and The Importance of Being Earnest made this a super fun, unexpected story. Elliot’s struggle to figure out what to do with her future with regard to her family’s expectations for her definitely pulled me into the story. It wasn’t the most satisfying plot element, though.

Actually, I have to say I was pretty excited when I figured out that Brandon (if you read The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You, you’ll remember this guy!) had a pretty major role in this novel. I loved finding him in Not Now, Not Ever.

Lots of the characters have secrets of their own, which had me hooked. It seemed like every time I thought I pegged what was going to happen, some new layer emerged. That made for a fun reading experience for sure.

On the whole, I think I liked these characters better than The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You but prefer that plot over Not Now, Not Ever. Not to say I didn’t enjoy both—I totally did. Anderson delivers strong dialogue and banter with some really fun geek culture in both books. Fans of Cori McCarthy’s You Were Here and Anderson’s debut novel, The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You will want to add this one to reading lists.

Recommended for Ages 14 up

Cultural Elements
Elliot is black. Her step-mom is white. She’s also from a family with very strong military traditions and feels pressured to join follow in that tradition after high school, despite her other dreams. Two of the boys in the summer program are gay and start a relationship.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used with moderate frequency.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two boys and between a boy and girl. It’s implied that a boy and girl have had sex.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content

Drug Content
At one point Elliot drinks alcohol with a friend.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.