Review: 180 Seconds by Jessica Park

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Published: 25 April 2017

Publisher: Skyscape

Category: New Adult/Romance/Contemporary

Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.

Rating: 2 Stars

The summary for this book had me thinking that this would be about someone who’d slowly, reasonably, learn to trust again. Having been in the foster care system since being abandoned at a safe haven as an infant, Allison’s trust issues were to be expected and I was curious about that, enough to request the book.

The first, say, quarter of the book wasn’t bad. Allison getting settled into her third year of college, the reader being introduced to the one person she does constantly open up to and trust, a former foster care housemate named Steffi, and her idiosyncrasies with regards to navigating life with as little interaction as possible.

Once Allison gets roped into the 180 Seconds social experiment, however, things started going downhill. That whole part of the story, staring into a stranger’s eyes and then having a passionate kiss/embrace made me really uncomfortable. I don’t know much about experiments like this, but it felt weird.

After Allison is properly introduced to Esben, the stranger she stared at for 180 seconds, she seemed to change almost too quickly for words. It felt like she trusted him far too quickly given her history and that part of her story became almost unimportant to the rest of it. Considering it was a core tenent of her being, I didn’t like how her and Esben’s relationship progressed.

Esben was an alright person, but for a social media star he seemed really naive about how people behave on the Internet. His sister and partner in crime, Kerry, usually deletes nasty comments from Esben’s videos and posts, but when she stops due to a relationship, he gets his first taste of the reality of Internet trolls. That didn’t ring true of someone in the 21st century who is, as described in the summary, a social media star. Even if he never saw the comment section of his own videos, he never came across any on other videos or Facebook posts or even Twitter messages? I couldn’t believe that.

Steffi was my favorite character for most of the book. She was Allison’s best friend ever since they met at a mutual foster care home and remained so, even after they were separated and moved, not only to different homes but different coasts for college.

I got frustrated when the book went from, what I gathered by reading the summary, a fairly light-hearted contemporary novel to a heartbreaking story of loss when it’s revealed that Steffi had cancer as a child, it’s returned, and now it’s terminal. Her reaction to the situation felt out of character (pushing Allison away), then once she’s changed her mind the sheer amount of luck involved in getting Allison and Esben to L.A. during an airline strike and Spring Break was unbelievable. Plus, the foster parents that supposedly said their time as foster parents was over when Steffi turned eighteen are suddenly golden because of a misunderstanding. Everything got wrecked and then tied up in a neat, if depressing, bow.

There didn’t feel like any tension or action between Allison and Esben getting together early on in the book and Steffi’s health crisis, which was an enormous chunk of the book. This made for a very dull read that I wasn’t enjoying. The first few chapters were good, which is why this isn’t rated one star, but it was close.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.




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Release Week Blitz: Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn

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Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Week Blitz for

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn!

Check out the excerpt below, and
be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

 

Congratulations Pintip!!

 

 

 

From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.

In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Kensington

Google Drive | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

 

 

 

A fish swims beneath the open staircase in my Khun Yai’s house. A real live fish, with its translucent fins fluttering in the water, its belly gold-scaled and bloated from regular feedings. If I part my knees, I can catch long glimpses of its lazy swimming through the gap in the stairs.

Of course, I’m not supposed to part my knees. It’s not ladylike for a twelve-year-old girl, not here, not in Thailand. The land where my parents grew up; the place that’s supposed to be my home, too. That’s what the banner said, when my relatives came to pick us up at the airport. “Welcome home, Kanchana.”

Never mind that I only come to Thailand every couple years. Never mind that I don’t look like anyone else here, with my American build and my frizzy, out-of-control hair. Never mind that I don’t look like anyone in my hometown, either, since I’m the only Asian girl in school. Never mind that the only reason we’re here now is because my father’s dead and my mom can’t keep it together.

For a moment, pain lances through me, so sharp and severe that it might as well slice my heart in half, like in one of those video games my friends like to play. I squeeze my eyes shut, but that doesn’t keep the tears from spilling out. Neither do the glasses sliding down my nose. And so the tears drip down, down, down, past my unladylike knees, through the gap in the stairs, into the fish basin below.

The drops scare the fish, who swims away with its tail swishing in the water, no longer languid, no longer lazy. So, even this creature wants to get away from me—from my grief, from my strangeness—as quickly as possible.

“There you are, luk lak,” Khun Yai says in Thai, coming down the stairs. She is my mother’s mother, and since we arrived, she’s used the endearment—child that I love—more often than my name.

“You’re up early.” She pats her forehead with a handkerchief. It’s only seven a.m., and already sweat drenches my skin like I’ve taken a dip in the basin. No wonder they take two or three showers a day here.

“Couldn’t sleep. Jet lag.”

“I’ve been up for a couple hours myself.” She eases onto the step next to me, her knees pressed together, her legs folded demurely to one side.

Immediately, I try to rearrange my body to look like hers and then give up. My legs just don’t go that way.

“What do you want to do today?” Khun Yai asks. “More shopping?”

“Um, no thanks.” I make a face. “Didn’t you hear those salesgirls at Siam Square yesterday? They rushed up as soon as we entered and said they didn’t have anything in my size.” My cheeks still burn when I think about their haughty expressions.

She sighs. “The clothes there are just ridiculously small. We’ll go to the mall today. They should have something that will fit you.”

I stare at her diminutive frame and her chopstick legs. “One of the salesgirls asked how much I weighed. Another grabbed my arm and said I felt like a side pillow.”

“They didn’t mean any harm. It is just the Thai way to be blunt.” She catches my chin and tilts up my face. “You are so beautiful. I wish you could see that.”

I could say so many things. I could tell her that I’m ugly not only in Thailand but also in the United States. Even though I’m not big by American standards—far from it—I could confess how the boys call me Squinty. How those Thai salesgirls snickered at my poodle-fuzz hair. I could explain how I’m from two worlds but fit in neither.

But I don’t. Because my words will only make her sad, and there have been enough tears in our family.

 

 

 

Pintip is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip’s first novel, FORGET TOMORROW won the RWA RITA® award for Best First Book. Her other novels include THE DARKEST LIE, REMEMBER YESTERDAY, and the novella, BEFORE TOMORROW. She is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

 

 

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Waiting on Wednesday: Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we highlight a title we’re looking forward to reading. You can find their website here.

My TBR is enormous, well on its way to 2000 books. What can I say, there is an amazing back catalogue out there and more good books are being released every day. The book I want to talk about today is Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst.

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Amazon  –  Author’s Website  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 6 March 2018

Publisher: Balzer & Bray

Category: Fantasy/LGBTQ+/Young Adult

Asra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.

But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.

Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself. Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.

I will admit, first and foremost, that I haven’t read Audrey’s other book, Of Fire and Stars, though I did receive it in an OwlCrate last year. I’ve been meaning to, I really have, and since Inkmistress doesn’t come out until March next year, I just might be doing that sooner rather than later.

Audrey has said that the working title for this book was “Bisexuality and Bloodshed”. That alone would be enough to get me interested, but then I saw this summary and I have so many questions about how the tale will go down that I’m jumping up and down, hoping to get an arc (if there are any). I’ll definitely be preordering it once my paycheck comes through.

First of all, there’s a demigod with a dangerous gift that is trying to prevent it from getting out. Then there’s her beloved girlfriend whose family is in danger and of course the demigod wants to help, but that ends up being the catalyst for a lot of dangerous stuff that goes down, including her now ex becoming a dragon. O.O Say whaaat?

Now Asra the demigod has to re-enter the world and…do what? Save her ex? Save the king her ex is going to kill? What will her mission end up being? Will she be able to do it without her powers taking over? We’re going to have to wait and see, unfortunately, but March will be here before you know it! 🙂

 

 

 

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Review: The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty

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Amazon  –  Author’s Website  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 9 May 2017

Publisher: Imprint

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Romance

An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

Rating: 1 Star

The cover for this book was very lovely and drew me to it at first, plus the description promising a girl who refused to be married and was a spy of sorts? That sounded like it would be pretty interesting, combined with the fact that this girl’s country is apparently on the brink of war. However, once I got to reading it, I found that it boring, dull, and had story lines that didn’t make sense.

Let’s start with Sage. She’s the main female character, meant to be this strong person who is a spy for the matchmaker, enabling the woman to make stronger matches. However, the time jump between when she meets the matchmaker (as a candidate herself, which does NOT go well) and 5 months later when she’s into her apprenticeship is quite awkward. When she’s sent away from the initial meeting with Darnessa the Matchmaker, she’s given the task to observe a visitor to her uncle’s home to gauge her aptitude. We never find out how she did! One has to assume she did well to get the apprenticeship, but glossing over the whole event felt jarring. Plus, we never find out what Sage’s uncle has to say about the apprenticeship when he was the one pushing for her to get married, not a peep!

Then there’s the matter of espionage. Sage and Darnessa are escorting brides to the Concordium, a big meeting where they’ll be matched. Escorting them are about 30 soldiers and some officers. Among these officers, multiple ones are engaged in using false names and alternate identities; starting early on in the book, this device felt problematic because it wasn’t clear. I understand wanting to be mysterious for the sake of a spy novel, but there’s mysterious and then plain messy. Not being able to keep a story line straight falls into the latter of the two.

 Speaking of the brides that Sage is traveling with, we hear almost nothing about them! There’s one that’s slightly mean to her (Jacqueline), one that’s nice (Clare), and that is all we hear about nearly a dozen or so young women. They never factor into the story, really, other than being mentioned, and really the whole thing could have been done without them. If they were going to be mentioned as the reason for the journey, I would’ve expected to get to know them, at least the ones mentioned like Jacqueline or Clare, beyond the bare necessities we get (we hear a little of Clare’s family, but not enough to really get to know her as a person).
40% of the way through the book I felt like I was dragging myself through the story and truly wanted to DNF it because I didn’t care about anyone involved. There was anyone that was interesting, especially not the main character! Sage get’s built up as this strong willed girl who won’t be married, who’s going to make a life for herself, and I’ll bet you can guess what happens by the end: engagement! Like nothing up to this point mattered because that was going to be the end game anyway. I would’ve been more interested if she’d been one of the Concordium brides that fell into spying with the soldiers and found a way out of her arranged marriage.
The political intrigue in this book tried so hard and fell flat. There was plotting within the country with enemies that had been annexed some four decades ago, but the traitor was not a very bright man and ended up being an arrogant sod rather than someone I thought could pull anything off. The only thing he did that made me feel something other than boredom was hatred when he killed the 9 year old brother of the main male character. At that point I wanted to throw the book across the room. What was that for, really? It added nothing to the story because the character in question already had sufficient motivation to kill this man.
The Traitor’s Kiss tried to be far too many things: a romance, a medieval political thriller, and other things I’m sure. I wouldn’t recommend it because the writing got far too uninteresting much too quickly and never recovered.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Top 10 Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read So Far in 2017

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Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You can find the prompts here.

I remember last year being so anxious for it to be done and for 2017 to get here. I didn’t realize just how fast it would go once it actually got around to arriving. *lol* Nevertheless, here we are at the halfway point of the year and I’ve read 71 books out of my 100 book Goodreads Challenge. I’m proud of myself because last year was a failure; I missed out by a few dozen books and I’m determined to make it this year, raising my goal eventually if I need to.

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is about the best books I’ve read so far this year. I’m going to skip over the rereads because there turned out to be rather a few of them and as I’ve talked about them a lot in the past, I want to share with you some of the newer to me titles I picked up. These will all be either 5 or 4 star reads.

In no particular order these are the best books I’ve read so far this year:

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George by Alex Gino

BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not….

I’d heard of this book before and since I’m trying to consciously read more LGBTQ+ books this year, I knew it was time to finally pick it up.

George/Melissa’s story was difficult because we were seeing a young girl’s experience being transgender when everyone is trying to tell her that’s she’s something she knows she isn’t.

My review: link.

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Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

There are so few books about conventions (as far as I know) that when I saw this one I knew I wanted to pick it up. When I started reading it and learned that Charlie was this bad ass, a bisexual woman who wasn’t going to let a studio dictate how she acted (i.e. fake a hetero relationship for the sake of a film), I was pumped! Taylor, the other main character, felt really relatable in terms of how she acted at the convention: toting around a box set, hoping to get it signed, and her enthusiasm for her fandom.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this book and the only real downside was that it was too short!

My review: link.

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The Backstagers #1 by James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh

James Tynion IV (Batman Eternal, The Woods) teams up with artist Rian Sygh (Munchkin, Stolen Forest) for an incredible yet earnest story about finding a place to fit in when you’re kinda an outcast.

When Jory transfers to the private, all-boys school St. Genesius, he figures joining the stage crew would involve a lot of just fetching props and getting splinters. To his pleasant surprise, he discovers there’s a door backstage that leads to different worlds, and all of the stagehands know about it! All the world’s a stage…but what happens behind the curtain is pure magic!

I requested this comic because the cover reminded me a lot of Steven Universe, one of my favorite cartoons at the moment. I hadn’t realized it was only issue one rather  than volume one, so hopefully I will get to read more soon. Anyway, the art is amazing and the story just got started telling us about the crew behind the drama club and their magical backstage area.

My review: link.

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Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

Sarah Andersen’s hugely popular, world-famous Sarah’s Scribbles comics are for those of us who boast bookstore-ready bodies and Netflix-ready hair, who are always down for all-night reading-in-bed parties and extremely exclusive after-hour one-person music festivals.

In addition to the most recent Sarah’s Scribbles fan favorites and dozens of all-new comics, this volume contains illustrated personal essays on Sarah’s real-life experiences with anxiety, career, relationships and other adulthood challenges that will remind readers of Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half and Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. The same uniquely frank, real, yet humorous and uplifting tone that makes Sarah’s Scribbles so relatable blooms beautifully in this new longer form.

Sarah just has a way of connecting to how I feel at any given moment, especially with her comics about anxiety. This is her second collection and it was just as amazing as the first. The line art is simple yet well done and her characters manage to have a lot of personality whether they’re in one comic or multiple.

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Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

I had no idea, beyond the summary, what to expect from this book. I didn’t know when I got it that I would stay up all night to finish it. I didn’t know how blown away I would be by the ending. There was so much to enjoy about this book, from the pacing and the writing to the characters, as well as so much to learn. It is easily one of my favorite books of the year.

My review: link.

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It Had To Be You by Lizzy Charles

James Parson has a problem. His military dad is going to yank him out of his expensive boarding school if James doesn’t prove he’s no longer hooking up, pulling pranks, and charming his way out of consequences. What better way to show he’s now responsible than becoming the committed boyfriend of a U.S. diplomat’s daughter?

Level-headed, book-smart Edelweiss may have traveled the world thanks to her dad’s job, but when it comes to friends and boys, she knows exactly nothing. Newly enrolled in boarding school, Edel is now on a mission to learn it all. James says he’ll help her experience the ultimate high school life—if she’ll be his fake girlfriend. And fake is perfect, because he’s exactly the kind of player she’d never date.

When I got the chance to review this for a tour and heard it had Gilmore Girls traits, I was more than happy to read it because that show is one of my all time favorites. This contemporary was a fun read and had a funny LI who wasn’t a complete ass like I’d have thought he might be, being the “rich boy who’s about to be expelled”.

My review: link.

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A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis

Pepper is getting a dress made for a special occasion. It’s the first dress that has ever been made just for her, and she wants it to be perfect. But what pattern is right for her? Pepper is particular, and nothing works at first. Dotted Swiss? Too plain. Houndstooth? Not enough color. Pinstripe? Too glum. As Pepper learns about each fabric, she finds a reason why it’s just not the one. Will Pepper ever be able to find the perfect pattern?
Julie Kraulis takes readers on a journey through gorgeous patterns and their origins–from the mountains of Switzerland to the green grass of Scotland–in search of Pepper’s ideal pattern. The incredible illustrations make for a dress, a character and a book that are impossible to forget.

I’m more of a knitter than a sewer but even I could appreciate this book. It celebrated the wide range of fabrics that were available for Pepper to choose from for her new dress. The illustrations were beautiful and the variety of these samples was interesting to see. It’s been one of my favorite picture books so far this year that I can recommend for adults to read themselves and to share with their children.

My review: link.

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Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Saints, Misfits, Monsters, and Mayhem is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

Sadly I do not remember who recommended this on Twitter or I would be thanking them a hundred times over. This debut blew me away with the writing style, the information without being info-dumping, and the multi-layered story for the main character, Janna, as she struggles with something that’s happened to her, her community, and what her personal feelings as a Muslim teenager.

My review: link.

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March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

This book proved very educational and relevant to current times. I don’t know why I hadn’t read it before, but I’m looking forward to reading the next two volumes.

My review: link.

 

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If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

This was recommended several times over on Twitter and I’m glad I finally read it in January. The story of a transgender teen, there were quite a few gut-wrenching scenes in this book. It has highs, lows, and lots to tell. The author was sure to point out that it wasn’t a story that spoke for all transgender people, which I appreciated.

My review: link.

 

Have you read any of these books this year or in the past? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. 🙂

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: The New Beginnings Coffee Club by Samantha Tonge

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Amazon  –  Author’s Website  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 5 May 2017

Publisher: HQ Digital

Category: Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit

Everyone deserves a second chance…don’t they?

Jenny Masters finds herself living the modern dream. Wife to a millionaire, living in a mansion and mother to Kardashian-obsessed ten-year-old April, there isn’t anything missing. Until, her whole world comes crashing down, forcing Jenny and April to leave behind their glittering life and start over with nothing.

With village gossip following her wherever she goes, she finds refuge and a job in the new coffee shop in town. As the days pass Jenny fears she doesn’t have what it takes to pick herself back up and give April the life she always wanted to. But with the help of enigmatic new boss Noah, and housemate Elle, Jenny realises it’s never too late to become the woman life really intended you to be!

Rating: 2 Stars

The New Beginnings Coffee Club sounded like the perfect summer read, just the thing to kick off the weeks of sunshine and cool drinks (frappuccinos, anyone?) ahead.

Sadly, once I started reading the book, I found that it lacked the spark I thought it might have after sampling the summary. It relies quite heavily on cliches of the genre: a wife, whose entire identity has become wrapped up in her husband and child, finds out her husband is cheating on her (with her “best friend” no less) and she must find the strength to create a new life for herself and her daughter.

Jenny, the protagonist and wife in question, was perplexing. She didn’t come from money and while she’s gotten used to certain comforts being married to a millionaire, her utter lack of sense regarding the real world astounded me. Surely she couldn’t have forgotten everything in only ten years? What it’s like to not pay hundreds or even thousands for silly little things?  It was odd when compared to the fact that she was the  only one between her and her husband that could see selling their mansion was the only way to make some dent in their near bankrupt state. She got slightly better over time, getting back to the fashion ideas she had as a college student, so that is something in the way of her development.

What I didn’t like about her, even as we got toward the end of the book, was that she kept making excuses for Zak’s behavior regarding her friend/housemate, Elle, and their own relationship. He says and does things that are reprehensible and yet Jenny makes excuse after excuse. I get that he is the father of her child, but that doesn’t mean letting him get away with murder like this.

Aside from the problems I had with Jenny’s character, I didn’t get much of a sense of familiarity with many of the people that she came into contact with in the village: Noah (the new love interest), Martini (a grandmother whose grandchild makes friends with April), etc. The person I liked the most was Elle, whose story I found much more fascinating that Jenny’s, to be honest. Something I noticed was that the gossip that is alluded to in the summary actually has next to nothing to do with Jenny at all and more to do with Elle and the revelation that she’s transgender. It’s strange that they make Elle’s story about Jenny and how it affects her. It didn’t rub me wrong in the moment, but thinking back on it I get an off feeling and don’t care for how Elle’s unwilling outing was used as a plot device.

Setting was not a problem, exactly, just not as necessary to the story as the title made it seem like it would be. The shop attached to Noah’s cottage, where Jenny and April end up living, could have been any kind of shop and it wouldn’t have mattered one whit to the overall plot. We didn’t hear enough about Noah’s supposed coffee bean passion, except a couple of sentences at the beginning, to make it a worthwhile setting.

The writing was a letdown as well. It didn’t have anything special to offer, which saddened me, because good writing can make up for an awful lot in a substandard or bare bones plot, but I didn’t get any of that here. This was, regrettably, not the summer escape read I thought it would be.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

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Published: 2 May 2017

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/Romance

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?

Rating: 5 Stars

I was sad for Anise because her whole summer was planned out. She was a good student, ready to enjoy her vacation before a jam-packed senior year and before her recently graduated friends leave for college. When an accident puts her aunt on the sidelines and unable to care for her three children for weeks at a time, Anise and her father fly to Nebraska, leaving behind any plans Anise had, including her end-of-the-summer surfing bash.

Her aunt is the closest family member Anise has besides her father, considering her mother abandons her family for months or years at a time. Even though this is her mother’s sister, Anise is loyal to her aunt and helps out, watching her cousins as best she can while dealing with her own hard feelings about missing her friends and with the fact that she’s as far from home as she’s ever been. Nebraska is vastly different from Santa Cruz, California. A landlocked state full of hills and farmland, there’s no ocean in sight, but there is skateboarding…and  Lincoln, the boy who could make things better.

I loved reading this book, aside from the initial sadness of Anise being taken away from her planned summer and her home due to her aunt’s injury. While we don’t get to spend as much time with surfing as Anise would like, you could feel her love for it in the brief glimpses we got and once skateboarding was introduced. I’ve never done either sport, but I’ve watched them and they’re beautiful, in a way. There’s a danger element (drowning/breaking bones on cement), of course, but the adrenaline, the speed, the lines as the sportsperson flies along the water or ground, there’s magic in that.

It wasn’t just the main characters Anise and Lincoln that made this book fun, though. While like the surfing we don’t get to see or hear as much of her as I’d like, Anise’s friend Tess was a joy for the brief time I knew her on the page. She was evidently someone that loved Anise and was crushed that she wouldn’t be around to share things with over a crucial summer.

Laura Silverman’s debut novel gives me a good feeling that her future work will be just as good. Her writing style in this contemporary novel was suitable to the genre and was really easy to sink into and read almost straight through. Sometimes a contemporary novel can be difficult because real life is not always something I want to read about; usually I read to get away from that kind of thing. Whether her next book is a contemporary, fantasy, non-fiction, or otherwise, I’m sure I’ll be picking up the next Silverman work, no question.

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.