Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Book Review: Love Blind by Christa Desir and Jolene Perry

Love BlindLove Blind by Christa Desir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I didn't want to end, which surprised me, because of the many twists and turns this novel takes with off again, on again friends Hailey and Kyle. At first, you might think Hailey's in your face and poke the bear approach to friendship is a bit off putting, but I found her demeanor and personality one that grew on me. Hailey often seeks to get a rise out of mumbly, nonverbal Kyle. He says very little, and is a clear introvert. No hidden extroversion anywhere. Despite her encroaching blindness (she's legally blind heading toward black blind), Hailey is able to get a true read of Kyle, and sees something she likes and worth pursuing in friendship. What Hailey perceives as control and the upper hand, however, soon unravels into a twisty turny story that is like a trainwreck you can't look away from.

Much of the story centers around the fear lists of Hailey and eventually Kyle, and the way facing these fears parallels the kinds of unspoken fears inherent in relationships, especially from two very broken people. Hailey is adopted by her two moms, and struggles with facing actual feelings and dealing with them when they happen, often leading her to make poor decisions, such as pursuing a hot bouncer dude over Kyle and then regretting her choice. By stuffing pretty much all of her feelings, she initially fails to sort out her actual growing feelings for Kyle, which leads to some rocky areas of their friendship. Kyle believes he is a bad friend to Pavel, who is now homeschooled after a traumatic incident Kyle witnessed but couldn't prevent from happening. Kyle finds himself taking the brunt of a series of attacks from guys seeking an easy target, leaving him bruised and withdrawn even more. He believes he is a bad friend to Hailey, and struggles with his growing feelings for her, which are at first completely driven by hormones and lust, but eventually mature into a desire to be a good friend, and in response to true care and concern which manifests as genuinely seeing her and knowing her better than anyone else does. Kyle's deepest struggle is with his mother, and the guilt he harbors for telling his father to leave and never come back after his father cheats on his mother for the umpteenth time. Kyle is ten, and his father leaves. This is a fear he places on his list, and each of the fears on Hailey's and Kyle's lists have a way of being faced before the story is over. The question is: can their friendship survive such a tumultuous journey?

What kept me reading was how each risk was brought into the pages, and dealt with in a way that either deepened the connection Kyle and Hailey felt for each other, or stripped away the lies, filters, and misperceptions each of them struggled with. It's heartbreaking, endearing, and a hot mess, all rolled together and complicated by two beautifully complex characters. Both of them failed to see themselves as fully as the other was able to see them. It's a long ride, spanning several years, but one worth the risk if you'll read it through to the end and commit to face despite the imminent blindness.

A powerful read unlike anything I've ever read. A love story as haunting as a song, as terrifying as every fear you can think of, and worth the risk.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Simon Spier. He's adorkable and charming, and the sort of imperfect friend who's still trying to figure himself out and how he fits into the world. I love that he's into music, and theater, and Oreos, and in being as authentic as he can, even if he has to keep a large portion of himself private to protect himself and the boy he loves over email.

I could not put this book down. I literally gobbled it down like Oreo anything and loved every minute of it. Simon has a great group of friends and a surprisingly supportive, yet hipster family. Their love is as fierce as Bieber, their family dog. As Simon navigates the complicated world of coming into himself, he realizes his feelings for his mystery guy, Blue, may be the very thing that makes him brave enough to want to come out and be himself fully with everyone, friends and family and all. Simon makes an important point, the Homo Sapien Agenda, where it seems only those who are gay have to struggle through the additional challenge of coming out or staying closeted in their sexuality. Why shouldn't others have to declare their sexuality, whether straight, gender fluid, LGBTQIA, or other? It would level the playing field and make finding oneself less awkward.

This book will steal your heart, cause your stomach to do all these fluttery, flippy things as you gobble it down shamelessly, and leave you wanting more. This gave me some serious book hangover. I'm still coming back down from that ending, especially the kissing. Thank you, Becky Albetalli, for writing such an important book with such heart and soul and music poured into every page. Also, your grammar is impeccable. Highly, highly recommended.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Book Review: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued by a BearExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. That ending. I have not read such a perfect ending in such a long time. It took my brain a few minutes to process and fully receive the impact. I must have been twirling through the air in a perfect basket toss, positioning myself to be caught by my teammates. Once I stuck the landing, everything snapped into focus and I realize everything had been flipped.

Incredible, impeccable writing throughout. Thoughtful and detailed characterization. I felt like I was on a full cheer squad without mistaking the two Susans, thanks to the pacing and timing by Johnston. The subject of rape and its aftermath may be brutal, yet expertly handled by Johnston as the story unfolds.

At center stage is Hermione and Polly. Two friends who stay true through thick and thin, their senior year and both find ways to have each other's backs in more than one occurrence. Johnston delivers on all fronts, giving air to just about every conceivable aspect of rape and its aftermath, the slow unraveling of one girl's recovery journey. And yet, she leaves room to make the point that there is much more to Hermione Winters than just the facts, whether by police report, or news reporter. And she sure as hell is much more than the rumors, and the victim blaming, and the shaming. To the very last page, Johnston keeps the reader turning pages.

Cheerleading is about precision, execution, and decision. Hermione may have to lose herself to find she was never that far away. As the story comes full circle, she finds within herself the ability to face her past and pave the way for her future based on one simple decision: to use her voice and speak up, when rape robbed her of that choice before. Go ahead. Poke the bear. See how silent the bear is. Bravo. Bravely told. A must read. A powerhouse of a book.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Book Review: The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent KingThe Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Glittering Read of Snakeskins and the Way We Shed Them for Something Greater

Zentner offers not one, but three stories, deftly woven, braided together. Three friends who face the unknown, where life begins, and who they will become, which is just as important as where they come from. Despite and in spite of their families, and the many ways life delivers both fairness and unfairness, often simultaneously, The Serpent King touches on a coming-of-age story so true, so painfully true, the reader cannot help but weep, laugh, scream, and hope while reading this captivating story. I found myself struggling to put the book down, wanting to read it in one greedy sweep of pages fluttering. What an exquisite read. I learned a few new vocabulary words and I loved how those words stayed in the book. YA readers aren't dumb, and it's high time authors took them as seriously as Zentner. Looking forward to the next novel as well. Zentner made the short list of auto read authors, at least for this reader. Highly, highly recommended.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Book Review: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

The Way I Used to BeThe Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe is the word spoken before we make a wish. Like, "I wish..." I wish this never happened. I wish I had stopped it somehow. I wish it had gone differently. I wish I could go back to before. I wish. I wish. I wish.

Eden was probably the kind of girl who might lay in the grass the summer before starting her four years of high school, pulling dandelion puffballs and blowing their seeds into all the wishes she could make for her life, back when it was much simpler to wish, simpler to breathe, simpler to just be.

Back when she was Edy, and before her life went spiraling out of control. A stairwell to a dark cellar where awful things happen, and claw their way back up the stairs from beneath her skin, trying to find a way out.

THE WAY I USED TO BE is raw, unflinchingly truthful, and astonishing in its portrayal of what millions of women, girls, boys, and men, and those who do not align as either, or who remain fluid, suffer through daily.

Sadly, they carry the guilt, the shame, and the fear which belongs to their abuser, as if it belongs to them, as if it is their own. And yet, it's not. It's a horrific lie told to them to keep them a prisoner, stuck on the stairs leading down into the cellar of their minds.

As Eden struggles through all four years of high school, drifting farther and farther away from the girl who used to say maybe, take a breath, and blow her wishes across the lawn or field she laid in, she wonders if she will ever find a way back to that place where she could still choose what her life might be, instead of having it already decided for her, already a nightmare she has to endure as a consequence of his actions. But I could just as easily say her actions, or their actions, depending upon whose story is being told.

As a male, I believe this book should be required reading in every sex ed class that separates out the boys and the girls, telling them how they will become adults. This book makes it crystal clear the devastation, the aftermath, the horror of what it is like for a survivor of rape to struggle through until she finds her voice and a way to speak the truth that has been shoved down so far, she doesn't even recognize herself in the mirror anymore.

Many thanks to Amber Smith, for writing what must have been such a terrible thing to have to write and live inside of for so long, until it was perfect and ready for its readers. No one wants to read about this. But we must. No one wants to talk about this, either. But WE MUST.

There were so many exquisite moments of profound truth and honesty, words of poetry so powerfully concentrated and blasting off the page as I read the lines. This is a book that needs to be processed, pondered, discussed, and shared. I intend to do all of those things, and more.

Thank you so much for writing this book, Amber. It is an honor to know you. Please, write more books chock full of truth and boiled down to the words within these pages. Amazing. Breathtaking. Heartbreaking. Powerhouse of a book. An absolute MUST READ. A book you won't regret, despite the topic.

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Book Review: The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

The First Time She DrownedThe First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I begin with my review, I want to thank the author, Kerry Kletter, for writing this much-needed book with all the truth and veracity between those covers, from the sun to the surf and every word in between.

It's not easy to take a journey like this one, especially one that includes drowning. It's the kind of slow, methodical unraveling that happens when parents coax their child away from the safety of the pool edge, because they believe that child is somehow ready to be out in the middle of it all, when in fact, they are not ready. Not even close. Also, there are no kick boards to use to avoid drowning, or anything really. And that's the moment the reader realizes he's out there with no land in sight, and no one watching, and that's when the tug downward begins, the insistance that the drowning is going to happen, one way or another. It's more than inevitability or destiny, as if one could ascribe purpose to the undertow, it's tenacious maw, the relentless pursuit. That is what Kletter delivers with her effortless and exquisite words, the ability to place us out there in the ocean and actually want to discover why Cassie has to drown, has always been drowning or moving toward it her entire life.

I loved the truths she learned about herself, the mistakes she made, and the way she found her own pathway back from the depths of the ocean to live another day, despite everything. Cassie is awkward and loveable, and her story is searing and powerful. I am still caught in the waves, tumbling endlessly against the shore of its pages, and I knew the truth before it surfaced once and for all in its brutal, honest way. For me, it was a visceral read, one I paced myself through so I could fully absorb it's awful beauty.

Highly, highly recommended. This is one that belongs at the very top of your TBR pile. You won't regret it.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Blog Tour: Rite of Redemption by Sarah Negovetich with Sale and Giveaway!


The Acceptance Series by Sarah Negovetich is now complete. Go forth and get yourself all three of these books and enjoy them as I have. From Book One, where Rebecca gets shipped off to the PIT and must channel her inner criminal to have any hope of getting out, to Book Two, where her life is literally on the line, and now, in Book Three, where Rebecca becomes everything The Machine accused her of in Book One, pitted against the Cardinal. For any of you who may have been living under a rock for the past three years, here's a quick recap:

https://amzn.com/B00P26DB08

RITE OF REJECTION (December, 2014)
 
 
Synopsis (Book One):
 
Straight-laced, sixteen-year-old Rebecca can’t wait for her Acceptance. A fancy ball, eligible bachelors, and her debut as an official member of society. Instead, the Machine rejects Rebecca. Labeled as a future criminal, she’s shipped off to a life sentence in a lawless penal colony.

A life behind barbed wire fences with the world’s most dangerous people terrifies Rebecca. She reluctantly joins a band of misfit teens in a risky escape plan, complete with an accidental fiancĂ© she’s almost certain she can learn to love.

But freedom comes with a price. To escape a doomed future and prove her innocence Rebecca must embrace the criminal within.

A teen and young adult dystopian adventure of crime, romance and survival. 

https://amzn.com/B017L29UNC
 
RITE OF REVELATION (December, 2015)
 
Synopsis (Book Two):
 
Before you Stands the Future.

The Cardinal plans to execute seventeen-year-old Rebecca Collins, just as soon as he gets what he needs to solidify his rule over the United Territories. Faced with certain death, Rebecca discovers not everyone is under the Cardinal's control. A new alliance helps Rebecca and her friends escape the PIT, giving Rebecca a chance to live the life her Rejection took away.

But the Cardinal needs her in order to stay in power, and he doesn't care who has to die to bring her back to justice.

Her last fight was a push to survive. This time, Rebecca has a life that might be worth dying for.

Continue the journey that started with Rejection and leads to a new Revelation. Buy Rite of Revelation today!
 
 
https://amzn.com/B01F50EZ3C
 
RITE OF REDEMPTION (June, 2016)
 
Synopsis (Book Three):
 
Rebecca escaped the PIT, found a family among the Freeman...and watched too many loved ones die. All she wants is the Cardinal to leave her in peace, but he's made it clear that's never going to happen.

When the Cardinal attacks other Freeman villages, she finally understands that no one is safe from his wrath. As the only one who's stood up to the evil that is the Cardinal, it's up to her to convince the others that they can't hide forever. It's time to fight.

The Machine predicted Rebecca would become the Cardinal's enemy. It may have gotten that one right.

In the conclusion to the Acceptance series, enemies become allies and old friends emerge, but in the end, sacrifice may be the price of freedom.
 
 
 
 
Now to learn more about Sarah Negovetich, Literary Agent, Marketing Guru, Mom, and YA Author:
 
Author Bio:
 
Sarah Negovetich knows you don't know how to pronounce her name and she's okay with that.
Her first love is Young Adult novels, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are
slimy and more than a little salty; it’s accurate if not exactly motivational. We should come up with a
better cliché.
 
Sarah divides her time between writing YA books that her husband won’t read and working with
amazing authors as an agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency. Her life’s goal is to be only a mildly
embarrassing mom when her kids hit their teens.
 
You can learn more about Sarah and her books at www.SarahNegovetich.com or follow her antics
on Twitter @SarahNego.
 
 

You can find more of Sarah here:
 
 

How about a Giveaway?

 
 

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway here: 

 
 
 
 
And while you're at it, don't miss out:
 
https://amzn.com/B00P26DB08
 
Comment below with all things Acceptance Series. And best of luck with the giveaway! Thank you for stopping by the blog.