Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: Love Hurts by Beverly Scudamore

Love Hurts
Beverly Scudamore
Mel's best friend Dustin is her dream guy, but she lost her chance with him last year and now he's seeing someone else. Enter Colter, the handsome new guy in school who is definitely interested in her. It's just the thing Mel needs to get her mind off Dustin. Before Mel realizes it, she's spending almost every waking moment with Colter, even skipping volleyball practices and nights out with friends.
When Colter gives Mel a ring, alarm bells start ringing, and Mel worries that maybe they're moving too fast. But every time Mel tries to cool things down a bit, Colter latches on even tighter. Mel can't bring herself to leave him. But she is beginning to wonder what lengths Colter will go to if she does.

My Review:
I have read many many books on dating violence in the past. During my teen years I basically read YA books on three subjects: dating violence, eating disorders, and self injury. I was a bit morbid in high school. Anyway, this book was a breathe of fresh air for someone who has read many books on this subject before.
The main character, Mel, is in love with her best friend Dustin. But he has a girl friend and she is sick of wasting her time on him. Enter Colter, the new guy at school. He is cute and intriguing and seems interested in her. What more perfect way to finally get over Dustin than letting herself fall for Colter.
At first things are great. Colter is a great guy and Mel is finally not thinking about Dustin. But soon Colter starts demanding more and more of Mel's time and eventually she is spending all of her time with him, missing volleyball tryouts and never seeing her friends.
As Colter grows more and more serious will Mel she starts to realize that something is definitely off. She realizes she needs to end this relationship but she's terrified of what will happen to her when she does.
The thing that sets this novel apart from others on dating violence is that Mel can see what is happening and takes action to stop it before the violence escalates. So often when reading a novel on dating violence I find myself growing aggravated with the main character as her whole world crashes around her and she doesn't see it happening. Which is true to life, don't get me wrong. But it doesn't have to be. Love Hurts focuses more on how hard it is to leave once you realize that you have to. Not only because you feel bad about hurting that person but because by leaving them you are putting yourself in danger. Instead of growing frustrated with Mel, I found myself cheering her on as she was trying to figure out the best way to leave Colter. I feared for what would happen to her but also I was so proud of her for making such a difficult decision for herself.
This book was a fast read, flowed well, the characters were well developed, and it offered a new take on an old topic. Definitely worth the read.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: The Truth About Letting Go by Leigh Talbert Moore

The Truth About Letting Go
Title: The Truth About Letting Go
Author: Leigh Talbert Moore
Ashley Lockett has always followed the rules. She's always done the right thing and played it safe until her ideal life is shattered when her dad dies suddenly.
Fueled by anger and grief, she vows to do everything opposite of how she lived before. Then she meets Jordan. He has big dreams, he's had a crush on Ashley for years, and he's a great kisser. But he's also safe.
Enter Colt. He is not safe, and he's more than willing to help Ashley fulfill her vow.
My Review:
Wow. I flew through this novel yesterday. And I mean can you believe that cover? Beautiful.
The book begins with Ashley, the main character, as she prepares for the dinner that comes after her father's funeral. Her father, who was a health nut, developed cancer and from the way Ashley describes it, he faded fast. It was a matter of six months from diagnosis to death.
Ashley, we come to learn, was very close with her father. So of course she is taking his death incredibly hard. During the dinner she escapes to the creek that runs through her neighborhood and there she meets Charlotte an overweight girl who Ashley recognizes from school but has never spoken to because Ashley is at the top of the high school food chain and Charlotte, well, isn't. As Charlotte and Ashley start talking Ashley realizes this girl looked up to and adored Ashley's father. She read his health articles for the newspaper and he inspired her to try to get her weight under control. And as she talks about her dad Ashley feels the weight in her chest begin to lift.
She returns to school and again, runs into someone she recognizes but realizes she doesn't kn ow his name. He has a locker next to hers and while he has had the locker all year she never noticed him before. HIs name is Jordan. He is geeky and definitely not fit to be seen with Ashley but she doesn't care. He's also nice and funny and a great kisser.
But Ashley wants danger. She realizes that the only real way to escape from her pain is the adrenaline rush that she gets when she is breaking the rules. And Jordan, whose future plans are to become a pastor, definitely is not one to break the rules with. Enter Colton Sterling. New student and self proclaimed "bad boy" he takes one look at Ashley and decides she is his new partner in crime. She knows it's wrong to deface public property and fool around in the broom closet at church but for once in her life Ashley doesn't care. Because when she's breaking the rules she can forget about losing her dad. But at what cost?
I truly understand what Ashley is going through in this novel. My teen years we faced with hard ships from foster care to my mother dying and lots of other things. And I ran away from the pain by doing exactly what Ashley does. So as frustrating as it is to read about her running away from Jordan and straight into the arms of trouble I understood it also.
This novel is so real. It's very moving and I didn't want to put it down. Truly, I don't think I did from the first page to the last. Reminiscent of Sarah Dessen in the way the characters are formed and the way you instantly connect with them, this novel has everything to make it an instant hit. And I know I look forward to anything else this author publishes.

Review: Skin by Donna Jo Napoli

Title: Skin
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
My lips are white. Sixteen-year-old Sep stares into the bathroom mirror on the first day of school. It’s not some weird lipstick (she never wears lipstick), she didn’t bump her lips or chew on ice. Her lips are just – white. In a panic, she digs up an old lipstick and smears it on her colorless lips. But soon, more and more white spots begin to bloom, spreading their chalky tendrils across her olive brown skin. Does she have a disease? Is she turning into some kind of freak?
Sep is usually the one who knows all the answers. With a quicksilver mind and a supple body, she’s happiest when she’s delving into the mysteries of animal biology or giving herself over to sweet, hot moves in Jazz Dance Club. Unlike her best friend, Devon, she’s never been in a rush to get a boyfriend. But as the white blotches spread, her dating days – like the endangered species she studies – seem numbered. So when Josh, a boy she’s always liked, makes a flirty advance, she wonders: why not grab pleasure while she can?
Frank, funny, and full of passion, this compelling novel tells the empowering story of a strong, gifted teen who, as her life spins out of control, desperately tries to prove to the world – and herself – that she is deeper than skin.
DONNA JO NAPOLI is the distinguished author of some twenty novels for young adults, including the award-winning Hush and The Smile as well as popular fairy-tale retellings such as Zel and Bound. Donna Jo Napoli lives in Swathmore, Pennsylvania where she teaches Linguistics at Swathmore College.

My Review:
This novel was captivating from the very first page. We meet Sep at the moment when she awakes on the first day of school only to find that her lips have turned completely white. She shows her mother who calls to make a Dr appointment but as the Dr does not consider it to be an emergency Sep has no choice but to go to school that day. She digs around for some old lipstick and smears on a bright bubblegum pink she has left over from middle school.
She has no idea what to think of her lips turning white. She doesn't know if she is dying, if this is normal or what. What she does know is that suddenly one of the incredibly hot boys in school, Josh, is suddenly paying attention to her. She's taken aback and not sure how to react but when she finds out she has a disease and that more spots on her skin will soon turn white and she will no longer look normal she decides to take a chance and accept pleasure from wherever she can get it.
She dives head into her relationship with Josh, quickly giving her body to him but never divulging to him the the disease she has. But as more and more spots and appear and they become harder to hide Sep has to finally accept her new self and stop hiding.
I loved Josh. His character was well developed and I enjoyed reading about their relationship. It was obvious that he cared about Sep and I felt bad that she was basically using him for sex because she didn't think she would find someone that would want her after they found out about her condition. He never gave the impression as someone who would be that shallow so I was hurt for him that she felt she couldn't trust him and I spent a lot of time cursing at her and feeling bad for him.
This book takes a disease not heard of very often and asks some very hard questions. What would you do if one day you woke up and had a big white spot on your skin? Would you hide it or accept it? What if you knew that before long your skin would be covered with them? What if you were in high school where so much of how you are treated is based on how you look? Would that change things?
A thought provoking novel about a girl who has to ask herself those questions and then make the hard journey of finding out the answers.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizen

Received from Netgalley for review

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend,

Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic

promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and

Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship

came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that

they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that

they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by

the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of

loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran,

homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body

is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and

accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will

never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be

loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing

her true self?

My Review:
A close friend of mine is Muslim so I when I read the description of this novel I knew I had to read it. This was a great novel about a very taboo subject. I'm sure there is no other novel about this exact subject out there.
Sahar and Nasrin have been best friend their whole lives.
They are both girls.
And they are in love with each other.
Not too big of a deal.
Until you realize they are Muslim and they live in Iran.
Now it's a HUGE deal.
They steal kisses and tell each other they love each other. They're not sure how they will always be together but they are sure that they will be.
Until Nasren's parents agree to have her become engaged. Sahar realizes that she is about lose the love of her life. Unless she can make the ultimate sacrifice and convicne herself that her love for this girl is worth everything, even her gender. Sahar finds out that sexual reassignment surgery is legal and even covered by insurance in some cases.
But Sahar is a girl. She is not a man trapped inside a woman's body. But she also knows that the only legal and safe way she can be with Nasren is by becoming a man.
What will Sahar choose? Will she make decide to sacrifice everything to become a man so she can be with Nasren? Or will be realize that sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest thing and sometimes you have to let go of the ones you love.

I spoke with my friend who is Muslim. She said that homosexuality if completely against their religion, but also that sexual reassignment is as well. But this novel tends to focus more on the laws of the country, not of the religion. In the Muslim community, when thinking of those living in Arab nations, one tends to confuses religion and government as the same thing and she set me straight and me it's not. The government is heavily based on the religion but not entirely.

I was totally wrapped up in this novel. I loved it. I highly suggest you give this novel a chance. You will never read anything else like it.

Review: Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not by Thompson Square

Received from Netgalley for review

Daniel and Casey were an unlikely couple back in high school when they came together to write music for a school event. Struggling against their differences, they dated during college, but their relationship never seemed quite right. Yet despite their personal conflict, as songwriters they had undeniable chemistry—and several hit songs. Eventually they went their own ways, both trying to make it in the music world and find true love.
Years later, both Daniel and Casey are at rock bottom, still trying to find success. But when they connect again as old friends, they realize that what they needed was right in front of them all along: each other.
From Thompson Square, a married twosome who knows a little something about what it’s like to overcome years of struggle in the music business and find love, Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not? is a charming and humorous love story about coming of age, knowing where you belong, and finding the perfect person to share life with.
My Review:
What an adorable novel. I admit, I'm not a huge fan of this song but I'm a sucker for cute love stories so I decided to give this book a try. I'm glad I did. It's cute and predictable but it's still a good read. You're not quite sure how things are going to happen to get to the end product. Daniel and Casey are such a cute couple and I was cheering for them to get back together throughout the whole novel. It was fun to read about a relationship that felt true to life. I liked that when Casey was angry with Daniel, she stayed angry. She didn't just give in whenever he apologized to her for hurting her. And poor Daniel just couldn't seem to catch a break. His career was going south, he had a few failed relationships and his father's health is going downhill. Both of them are at rock bottom and they both want to reach other to each other and just don't know how.
This is a cute story of a couple so obviously meant to be together and the roads they have to take to get there in the end.

Review: Ripped by Shelly Dickson Carr

Ripped: A Jack the Ripper Time-Travel Thriller
Received from Netgalley for Review

Katie Lennox wishes her parents were still alive. Having to leave Boston to live with Grandma Cleaves in London was hard, but she's making new friends, working on her British accent and even learning some Cockney rhyming slang. London's cool and actually feels like home in some ways, like she's been here before, belongs here. When a museum visit with her cousin and his cute friend turns funky, Katie finds herself in a long, uncomfortable dress, wearing a ridiculous hat, wondering what happened to her jeans and high-top sneakers? And where's her iPhone?... It's London, 1888. Smart and gutsy, Katie knows she's here to stop Jack the Ripper. The serial killer didn't just slash his victims' throats; he butchered the women. Katie has read about the Ripper, knows the names of his victims and where and when they were killed. She's watched her fair share of CSI. Can Katie save their lives?

My Review:
This book was... interesting. I've never really read a time travel novel before and I felt that this book could be a bit confusing. But I'm a murder mystery lover so I wanted to give this book a try. I don't know much about the case of Jack the Ripper so if there were any blatant mistakes in the writing of this book I truly didn't notice them but I have seen reviews that are angry about the mistakes in the case. Now, in the author's defense, at the very end of the book she clearly states that she purposely changed details, victims, etc to suit the book.
I really liked the main character Katie. She was skunky and spirited and it was quite comical to read about her experiences living in Victorian London where girls were demure and quiet. She messed up quite often by acting in ways that were totally inappropriate back then. It was fun to read as she tried to explain her way out of her quirkiness without casting too much suspicion on her.
Also, the identity of Jack the Ripper was never made obvious throughout the novel. I was clueless even as he was being revealed and had to reread the page a few times to make sure that I had read correctly.
The book is intriguing and all around a fun read. If you want a book that's going to stick to the case of Jack the Ripper to a T, don't read this novel. If you want a book that going to take a case that is known throughout the world and put their own spin on it and "solve" the mystery, then this book should interest you. I know I found it to be an entertaining, if at sometimes confusing, read.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: Accidents Happen by Louise Millar

Received for review from Netgalley

From Louise Millar, the acclaimed author of The Playdate, comes a gripping psychological thriller where one woman’s streak of bad luck may be something far more sinister.

Kate Parker lives her life in a state of heightened anxiety, constantly afraid that something terrible will happen to her and her ten-year-old son, Jack. She obsesses over statistics to make them safe. There’s a reason for Kate’s nervousness. She lost her parents in a freak traffic accident on her wedding night, and her husband Hugo was murdered. It’s time for Kate to move on and start a new life.
When Kate meets Jago, it feels like she’s about to get that new beginning. Soon, though, her doubts return—despite the fact that everyone thinks she’s irrational. But is she imagining things? Or does she have a real reason to worry? After all, accidents happen.
Heralded as “a writer to watch” (Booklist) for her stylishly creepy and accomplished debut, Louise Millar skillfully layers suspense and twists in this taut and deeply suspenseful thriller.

My Review:
This was a really good read. Poor Kate is so terrified of bad things happening to her she actually has a steel cage installed into the top floor of her house so if anyone breaks in while her son and her are sleeping they can't reach Kate and Jack. She is constantly barraged by numbers and statistics of things can go wrong simply by riding your bike during the day versus at night or which airline has the most plane crashes (not that she would risk getting on a plane anyway). And I can't say I don't see why she is like this. Her parent's were killed in a freak car accident the day of her wedding and then her husband was murdered while she and her then toddler son were upstairs in the same house. To her bad luck doesn't just happen, it happens to her. All the time.

But then she meets a man named Jago who has written a book on the statistics that constantly plague Kate. She admits that she has a bit of an anxiety problem and he agrees to help her work through it. Turns out his publisher knows of a psychologist who is working on a book about the exact kind of anxiety that Kate suffers from, where the statistics that are supposed to help you actually start to affect the way you live your life.

Through a series of off the wall experiments Jago helps Kate block out the constant numbers in her head and teaches her not only how to live her life normally but how to embrace it. Poor Kate never stops to think that maybe this Jago fellow is too good to be true. Nor does she realize that her run of bad luck might be much more than that. Someone might just be out to get her and her family for sinister reasons she never saw coming.

I thought this book was pretty unique, the way it takes the statistics that are shoved in every car commercial, food container, etc and turns them into a literal illnes for this woman. I hardly notice those statistics but for Kate she can't forget them. When Jago comes along and starts to help her I was cheering for her. It was so nice to see her start to live again. I admit, at the beginning of the book it's easy to be frustrated with Kate the way her whole family is because it's so hard to understand the way she really can't escape from the statistics. They literally haunt her until Jago teaches her ways to block them out and how to take back control of her life. He words things in a way that I loved. You can do all your research on which airline to fly with by comparing the statistics for crashes and safety standards and feel totally safe and confident you made the perfect informed choice- and then choke on peanut in the airport lobby. There is no way to make yourself totally safe from all the dangers in the world and it's fun to see Kate realize this and allow herself to open up to living again.

The ending was perfect in how unexpected it was and I loved watching all the pieces fall into place and literally saying "OH!! I get it now!" as things were uncovered and I realized what had been going on all along. Usually with thrillers and mysteries I can predict whodunit as soon as the mystery is presented but with this book I was totally caught off guard, which I loved. So glad I was able to review this book.