Review: SAY YOU STILL LOVE ME by K. A. Tucker

Review:  SAY YOU STILL LOVE ME by K. A. TuckerSay You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker
four-stars
Published by Atria Books on August 6, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAY YOU STILL LOVE ME Review

 

I’m always a sucker for a good second chance romance, so when I heard K.A. Tucker’s Say You Still Love Me featured one, I knew I had to read it. And it was everything I love in a second chance romance too. It has two incredibly likeable main characters that I loved, both individually and as a couple, a dual timeline that give us glimpses both of when they first met and fell in love and when they reunited years later, and, finally, a bit of mystery as we gradually learn what happened to end their relationship all those years ago.

Kyle and Piper were both such great characters, equally likeable as adults and as teenagers.  I especially enjoyed following Piper, who as an adult, is now a successful businesswoman preparing to take her place as the head of her father’s company as soon as he retires.  It’s fun to watch her transform from those awkward teenage years to a competent and confident corporate VP, doing whatever it takes to earn the respect of her father’s longtime employees.  I also had a major soft spot for Kyle, whose family clearly comes from the wrong side of the tracks.  He’s practically the only member of his family who hasn’t been in jail, and his family’s illustrious history dogs him everywhere he goes.

The use of a dual timeline was one of my favorite parts of Say You Still Love Me.  In addition to watching Kyle and Piper interact as adults in the corporate world, I was a huge fan of the flashbacks to summer camp where Kyle and Piper first met as teen counselors.  I loved the nostalgic and almost magical vibe that the summer camp atmosphere always seems to provide, as well as the fact that Piper and Kyle were just so sweet together.  Even though they come from opposite sides of the tracks, all of their differences just melt away at camp and they’re just a boy and a girl falling in love for the first time.

The biggest draw for me, however, was the wanting to know what exactly happened to break them up after that summer since they had seemed so perfect for each other.  The answer to that question is a slow burning one that gradually reveals itself as we move through the story, and it really made what was already a great story even more compelling since Piper hints repeatedly that Kyle broke her heart.

There’s so much more I could say about Say You Still Love Me, but I’m just going to leave it at – if you enjoy second chance romances, the romance between Kyle and Piper is one you’re going to love!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Life is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway.

On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus, she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day.

Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group Industries, and coincidentally the first love of her life.

The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counsellors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name.

Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is not only alive but stronger than ever, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences.

four-stars

About K.A. Tucker

K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge.

She is the USA Today bestselling author of 17 books, including the Causal Enchantment, Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series, He Will Be My Ruin, Until It Fades, Keep Her Safe, and The Simple Wild.

Her books have been featured in national publications including USA Today, Globe & Mail, Suspense Magazine, First for Women, and Publisher’s Weekly. She has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance 2013 for TEN TINY BREATHS and Best Romance 2018 for THE SIMPLE WILD. Her novels have been translated into 16 languages.

K.A. Tucker currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her family.

Review: THE BOOK CHARMER by Karen Hawkins

Review:  THE BOOK CHARMER by Karen HawkinsThe Book Charmer (Dove Pond, #1) by Karen Hawkins
four-stars
Published by Gallery Books on July 30, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BOOK CHARMER Review

 

I have to admit that I requested Karen Hawkins’ latest novel The Book Charmer from Netgalley solely based on the beautiful cover and the fact that it was clearly a book about books.  That combination was irresistible to me, even without having read the synopsis.  Thankfully once I settled down and actually read the synopsis, I knew my instinct to select this book was a good one as it’s marketed as a book perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic and Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors.

I found The Book Charmer to be a truly magical read in every sense of the word, and although I feel like I could ramble about this book for days, I’m just going to share a few of the things I enjoyed most.

 

  1. Dove Pond. I adore books that are set in small towns and the town of Dove Pond stole my heart right away. It’s a quaint little southern town located in North Carolina.  It’s one of those little towns where all the residents know each other and make it their business to know about everyone new who comes to their town. They may seem like busybodies on the surface, but the residents will have your back in a heartbeat if you find yourself in trouble.  And yes, the town has its fair share of quirky characters which sometimes made me chuckle, but the sense of community in Dove Pond was overall just truly heartwarming.  It’s like one big happy family.
  1. Grace Wheeler. The Book Charmer features fiercely independent women as its protagonists and Grace Wheeler is one of them.  Grace has moved to Dove Pond and is just taking things day by day, trying to adjust to recent changes in her life that have left her as her niece Daisy’s primary caregiver and in a similar role for her foster mother, Mama G., who is suffering from dementia.  The only reason Grace is in Dove Pond is because it’s where Mama G. grew up and doctors have told her that a familiar environment would help Mama G. cope with her deteriorating memories.  I loved Grace right away  because of her determination to put her family first at all costs and because of her sense of independence.  She is determined to leave Dove Pond as soon as she possibly can and has no interest in putting down permanent roots there, including making friends.  She just simply doesn’t have the time or energy to devote to that.

(As a side note, I also really appreciated how Hawkins handled writing about someone who is experiencing dementia – how it impacts them and how it impacts everyone around them.  As someone who has a family member who is currently suffering from dementia, I found myself nodding my head at what was going on with Mama G. throughout the book.  Hawkins handles this subject matter delicately and accurately).

  1. Sarah Dove. While Grace is doggedly determined to leave Dove Pond as soon as possible, equally stubborn Dove Pond resident, Sarah Dove, has other ideas.  Sarah is the town librarian, which of course endeared her to me right away, because…books! But I also adored Sarah because she was just so adorably quirky.  She also has a special gift when it comes to books – I don’t want to say too much about it, but if you’re in Dove Pond and Sarah gives you a book, it’s definitely in your best interest to take it, whether you think you want to read it or not!  Sarah also has a gift when it comes to knowing what Dove Pond needs and as soon as she meets Grace, she decides Dove Pond needs Grace. Sarah therefore makes it her mission to make Grace fall in love with the town and its residents.
  1. Relationships. At its heart, The Book Charmer is a book about relationships.  It has a strong focus on family, especially found families, and on the importance of friendships (whether you’re looking for them or not).  And yes, for all of the romance fans out there, there is a hint of a romance in the book as well. I don’t want to say much about that either except to say that Trav, the male love interest, is described as looking like Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones Yes, please! (And you know I of course loved that this book had GoT references in it!) 
  1. Magical Realism. Sometimes magical realism is hit or miss for me, but it really works in this charming, special little town.  This is where the comparison to Alice Hoffman’s books were so apt because Hawkins’ use of magical realism is subtle like Hoffman’s is and really gives you that feeling that those little magical elements could actually be possible.

  

If you’re looking for a heartwarming read that features a small town setting, lovable characters, and a strong focus on family and friendships, I highly recommend adding Karen Hawkins’ The Book Charmer to your reading list.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins crafts an unforgettable story about a sleepy Southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a truly magical friendship.

Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.

If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book, but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.

“A mesmerizing fusion of the mystical and the everyday” (Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author), The Book Charmer is a heartwarming story about the magic of books that feels more than a little magical itself. Prepare to fall under its spell.

four-stars

About Karen Hawkins

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Karen Hawkins is known for her wonderfully humorous and emotion-tugging historical and contemporary romances. The author of over 30 novels, Karen writes for a living between shopping for shoes, playing around on Facebook and Pinterest, looking for fun items for Hawkins Manor, and napping, although usually not at the same time. Sometimes, for fun, she takes Instagram pictures of her two rescue dogs, Sadie and Teke, and posts them online.

Yeah, she’s a wild one.

Karen lives in snowy Massachusetts, with her husband, aka Hot Cop, and her two dogs. Her children are both out of college and have become productive, non-violent members of society. Karen writes six to eight hours a day when not obsessively reading research books on Regency-era Scotland, snacking on chocolate, or looking out the windows of her house and thinking about gardening. Her hobbies include sculpting, oil painting, playing badminton, and — ok, ok, she doesn’t have any hobbies, but if she did, she’s sure they’d be something refined and fascinating.

Review: ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane

Review:  ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth KeaneAsk Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
four-half-stars
Published by Scribner on May 28, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASK AGAIN, YES  Review

 

Mary Beth Keane’s latest novel Ask Again, Yes is a poignant and powerful exploration of what happens when an unexpected tragedy rocks the lives of two neighboring families.  It follows Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, who grew up together in a suburban neighborhood in New York.  Although their fathers are both NYPD police officers, the two families really don’t have much to do with one another.  Peter’s mother Anne is especially standoffish, so after a few early attempts to make friends, Kate’s mom gave up. In spite of that awkwardness, Kate and Peter still find each other and become best friends.  In the spring of their 8th grade year, just as their relationship is blossoming into more that friendship, tragedy strikes and an unthinkable act of violence pushes the two families even further apart.  Peter’s family is forced to leave, and he and Kate are forbidden from contacting each other. Kate and Peter do eventually reconnect as adults, but can they have any kind of relationship when the events of the past still haunt both them and their families?

* * * * *

This novel just really moved me on so many different levels.  I was immediately drawn to the friendship between young Kate and Peter.  Keane does such a wonderful job of portraying their relationship as they move from the innocence of childhood to the excitement of falling in love for the first time.  Both characters are so well drawn and everything about the evolving of their relationship just felt so authentic.  What happens between the two families would be considered tragic no matter what, but it was especially heartbreaking to see what it does to these two very likeable children.

I also found myself incredibly invested in both families, not just because of Kate and Peter, but because all of the characters in this book feel so realistic.  Everything for them is messy and complicated, just like real life.  The intimate look Keane gives us into their lives — their reactions to things that happen, their strengths and weaknesses as they try to cope with the aftermath of that tragic event, etc. — all of it just made me feel like these two families could easily be my own neighbors.

Aside from the intimate look into the lives of these two families, what also drew me to Ask Again, Yes are all of the themes it explores.  Yes, it’s a story about family, friendship, and love, but it’s also a story about mental illness, tragedy, and the power of forgiveness.  I also love that it gives us the perspective of how something that seems one way when we’re children can seem like something entirely different when we reflect back on it as adults, especially the idea that no one is as innocent or guilty as they may seem.

If you’re looking for a moving family drama that will tug at your heartstrings, Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes is a book you should add to your must-read list.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two NYPD rookies assigned to the same Bronx precinct in 1973. They aren’t close friends on the job, but end up living next door to each other outside the city. What goes on behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the stunning events to come.

Ask Again, Yes by award-winning author Mary Beth Keane, is a beautifully moving exploration of the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’s youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter, who are born six months apart. In the spring of Kate and Peter’s eighth grade year a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move away, and the children are forbidden to have any further contact.

But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by the echoes from their past. Ask Again, Yes reveals how the events of childhood look different when reexamined from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.

 

four-half-stars

About Mary Beth Keane

Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. In 2011, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35,” and in 2015 she was awarded a John S. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing. She currently lives in Pearl River, New York with her husband and their two sons. She is the author of The Walking People, Fever, and Ask Again, Yes.

Review: THE BEST LIES by Sarah Lyu

Review:  THE BEST LIES by Sarah LyuThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
four-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on July 2, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEST LIES Review

 

Sarah Lyu’s exciting debut The Best Lies opens with a death and a police interrogation.  Remy Tsai’s boyfriend Jack has been shot dead, and the police are trying to get to the bottom of what happened.  All they know when the story opens is that the shooting took place at night in Remy’s best friend Elise’s home, Remy may or may not have been present, and it was Elise who pulled the trigger and ended Jack’s life.  Was it murder? Was it self-defense?

This is one of those books where I can’t say much at all without spoiling it, but I will say that I loved the opening.  The tension of the interrogation scene, coupled with finding out that such an awful thing had happened, immediately drew me in and had me wanting to know more.

I found Remy to be a tremendously sympathetic character.  She’s an emotional wreck when the story opens, trying to wrap her head around the fact that the boy she loves is gone and that her best friend is the one who took him away from her.  I can’t even imagine being in that kind of situation and the author does a wonderful job of showing us just how emotionally spent Remy is from the ordeal. Remy also comes from a home where her parents scream, fight, and threaten divorce constantly, so for Remy, it hurts all the more to have lost Jack, who was the one bright spot in her life.  Her emotional state makes her a somewhat unreliable narrator, which adds yet another layer to the story.  Can we trust anything she is saying about that night?

I didn’t like Elise as much as I liked Remy, but I still thought she was an interesting character. I had sympathy for her because she comes from an abusive home, but at the same time, I found some of the things she does to be somewhat juvenile and I sometimes wondered what Remy saw in her.  She does have what I’d consider to be a magnetic personality though so I’m thinking that was part of the allure.

The author also drew me in with the way she lets the story unfold.  The story is presented to us in two timelines, one in the present and one in the past.  In the present timeline, we are following Remy in the aftermath of the shooting as both she and the police try to make sense of what happened that night.  In the past timeline, we get to see how Remy meets both Elise and then Jack, and how their relationships evolve over time and how we end up where we are in the opening scene of the book. Lyu seamlessly weaves together these timelines into a complex and intricate story that is not just a crime thriller but that also explores what happens when friendships take a dark turn.

The Best Lies held my attention from start to finish as I waited with bated breath to find out the truth about what happened that night.  The story is both suspenseful and heartbreaking and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries and to anyone who gravitates to stories that deal with grief.  It’s a dark read but, at the same time, an emotional one.

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.

She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.

But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—

And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.

Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.

Told in alternating timelines, Thelma and Louise meets Gone Girl in this twisted psychological thriller about the dark side of obsessive friendship.

four-stars

About Sarah Lyu

Sarah Lyu grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband and dogs. She loves a good hike but can often be found with a book on her lap and sweet tea in hand. The Best Lies is her first book. You can visit her at SarahLyu.com.

Book Review & Giveaway – THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by Abbi Waxman

Book Review & Giveaway – THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by Abbi WaxmanThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
four-half-stars
Published by Berkley Books on July 9, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction, Chick Lit, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

Today I am taking part in the blog tour to promote Abbi Waxman’s new novel The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.  Thanks so much to Lauren Horvoth at Berkley Publishing for the invitation.  I can’t wait to share my thoughts on this gem of a book with my visitors!

 

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL Review

 

Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019 and I’m thrilled to tell you that it’s everything I hoped it would be and more!  As a booklover and an introvert, it’s by far one of the most relatable books I’ve ever read and the protagonist Nina Hill is a treasure.  I could easily fangirl about my love for this book all day, but instead let me just share some highlights.  If you like what you hear, be sure to scroll down and enter my giveaway for a finished copy of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill:

Nina Hill is of course my absolute favorite part of the book.  She’s a huge book lover as well as extremely introverted.  I mean, this girl is unapologetically books over people all day long and I love her for it.  Almost as strong as her love of books though is her love of organization and planning.  She likes to be in firm control of every aspect of her life and is the queen of planners.  She also freely admits that fellow control freak, Monica Gellar from the sitcom Friends, is one of her personal heroines.  She’s also incredibly socially awkward and is most comfortable with just a few treasured friends in her life.  Growing up an only child, it was very easy for Nina to keep her world small and cozy, with plenty of time to keep her nose happily stuck in books.

Waxman does a fantastic job creating the character of Nina, that so many book lovers and introverts will find immensely relatable.  I know I wanted to be friends with Nina from the opening pages of the story.  She’s adorably quirky and sounds like my kind of person.   I also felt tremendous sympathy for Nina when she learns that the father she never knew has died, not so much because of the death itself, but because he apparently had several ex-wives, a whole slew of children, grandchildren, etc. and all of them want a piece of Nina.  Couple her new extended family with a cute guy from trivia night who wants to ask her out, and it’s suddenly a very uncomfortable environment for Nina to find herself in.  After all, this is a girl who pencils in Nothing on her calendar and once Nothing is penciled in, that’s exactly what Nina wants to do.

In addition to Nina, Waxman has also filled The Bookish Life of Nina Hill with a fantastic cast of secondary characters.  Her coworkers at the bookstore where she works, her trivia teammates, her nephew Peter and her siblings Archie and Millie are all just so much fun to read about, especially as Nina awkwardly interacts with each of them.  The thoughts that go through her head sometimes are truly just laugh out loud, as are many of the things she actually says.  I also adored her budding relationship with rival trivia player, Tom.  They’re so cute and awkward together and every interaction just had me grinning from ear to ear, especially as their teammates try to not so subtly play matchmaker.  Oh and I can’t forget Phil, Nina’s cat.  I swear that cat has some of the best lines in the entire book (all in Nina’s head of course).

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill just really captured my heart on so many levels.  I loved that Nina was so easy to relate to and that I could see so much of myself in her, and I also loved that the book had so many layers to it.  It’s a book about the importance of family and friends, and it’s a book about finding love even when you don’t think you have room for it in your life.  If you’re looking for a book that will leave you with a smile on your face, I highly recommend The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

 

SYNOPSIS:

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

  1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likesher hair.)
  2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
  3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

 

GIVEAWAY!

 

U.S. only, no giveaway accounts, Giveaway ends on 7/15/2019, and I will contact the winner via email to get their mailing address to forward to the publisher.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

four-half-stars

About Abbi Waxman

Abbi Waxman was born in England in 1970, the oldest child of two copywriters who never should have been together in the first place. Once her father ran off to buy cigarettes and never came back, her mother began a highly successful career writing crime fiction. She encouraged Abbi and her sister Emily to read anything and everything they could pull down from the shelves, and they did. Naturally lazy and disinclined to dress up, Abbi went into advertising, working as a copywriter and then a creative director at various advertising agencies in London and New York. Clients ranged from big and traditional, (AT&T, Chase Manhattan Bank, IBM, American Express, Unilever, Mercedes-Benz) to big and morally corrupt (R. J. Reynolds) to big and larcenous (Enron). Eventually she quit advertising, had three kids and started writing books, TV shows and screenplays, largely in order to get a moment’s peace.

Abbi lives in Los Angeles with her husband, three kids, three dogs, three cats, a gecko, two mice and six chickens. Every one of these additions made sense at the time, it’s only in retrospect that it seems foolhardy.

Review: CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT by Brigid Kemmerer

Review:  CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT by Brigid KemmererCall It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
Also by this author: More Than We Can Tell
four-half-stars
Published by Bloomsbury YA on June 25, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT Review

Call It What You Want is officially my new favorite novel from Brigid Kemmerer.  Kemmerer is a master of creating engaging stories filled with wonderful characters that will tug at your heartstrings, and she really captured my heart with this one.

Call It What You Want follows Rob and Maegan, two teens who have been ostracized by their classmates.  Rob’s father got caught embezzling funds from half the town, including the parents of many of his classmates.  Many people have wrongly assumed Rob knew exactly what his father was up to and so he has gone from being a popular star athlete at the top of the social food chain down to the bottom rung.  Maegan is an academic overachiever but we learn in the opening pages that she has cracked under the pressure of trying to be the best and cheated on her SATs.  Not only has Maegan potentially tanked her own chances at college, but she also caused the scores for dozens of her classmates to be invalidated as well.  Maegan is no one’s favorite person right now.

When the story opens, Rob and Maegan are both just in survival mode, each trying to lay low and get through the school year drawing as little attention to themselves as possible.  When Rob and Maegan get paired up on a project in Calculus class, however, everything changes.

The friendship that blossoms between Rob and Maegan is one of my favorite things about Call It What You Want.   I love the way Kemmerer writes unlikely friendships like theirs.  She portrays that initial awkwardness of the relationship and then the slow opening up to one another so authentically and so beautifully.  I could read books like this from Kemmerer all day every day and never get tired of them.

Another gem of a friendship that appears in the book is between Rob and Owen.  Owen is a loner and he’s also poor, so poor that he can’t even afford to buy lunch at school.  Owen’s struggles are, in part, due to what Rob’s father did, so a friendship between Owen and Rob seems nearly impossible and yet Kemmerer works her magic and creates yet another amazing friendship for me to smile about.  I actually adored Owen’s character so much that I’d love to see him with a book of his own at some point.

Aside from making me smile at the wonderful relationships being forged throughout the story, Kemmerer also puts them into situations that tugged at my heartstrings so hard.  I felt tremendous sympathy for Maegan and the mess she has gotten herself into.  It felt like one of those situations that any one of us could have found ourselves in back in school.  Even more heart-wrenching than Maegan’s situation though is Rob’s.  Not only did he not have any idea what his father was up to, but Rob and his mother are stuck dealing with all of the fallout, including taking care of his father, who botched a suicide attempt and is now brain damaged and mostly paralyzed.  Rob is also being bullied by his former best friend, so every day is pretty much a living hell for him.

Finally, what makes Call It What You Want my new favorite book from Kemmerer is the fact that she really had me thinking about some tough topics, especially as they pertain to Rob. Rob is desperate to try to fix what his father did and contemplates crossing into morally gray territory to make it happen.  It really got me thinking about right and wrong.  Can you ever really make something right by committing a wrong?  I love a book that can engage me with such important and thought-provoking topics.

Wow, I actually had no intention of writing so much, but the book is just that good! Call It What You Want is a heartfelt and beautifully written story about friendship, overcoming adversity, and making amends.  I know Kemmerer’s fans are going to love it, but I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a moving read.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

four-half-stars

About Brigid Kemmerer

BRIGID KEMMERER is the author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Book Review & Giveaway: SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY by Amber Smith

Book Review & Giveaway: SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY by Amber SmithSomething Like Gravity by Amber Smith
four-stars
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 18, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thanks so much to Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me in the blog tour for Amber Smith’s Something Like Gravity.  I’m thrilled to be able to share my thoughts on this beautifully written and moving story that explores how people deal with grief and loss and how they process traumatic events, as well as what it feels like to fall in love for the first time. The story follows Chris, a teenage boy who has just come out as transgender, and Maia, who is trying to come to terms with the unexpected death of her older sister.  Both Chris and Maia are having a hard time – Chris because his mother is struggling to accept him as transgender and because he was violently attacked at school by some of his classmates, and Maia because she has basically lost her own identity and sense of self.  To all of her classmates, she’s now just the little sister of the girl who died. When Chris leaves town and moves in with his Aunt Isobel for the summer, who is coincidentally Maia’s neighbor, Chris and Maia meet.  Maia doesn’t know Chris is transgender or that he was attacked, and Chris doesn’t know about Maia’s sister, so as they become acquainted, they see each other as a chance for a fresh start. Can a relationship survive though, friendship or otherwise, if it begins based on secrets and lies?

 

* * * * *

5 REASONS WHY SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY SHOULD BE ON YOUR SUMMER READING LIST

 

I really enjoyed reading Something Like Gravity.  I love how Smith crafted this story in a way that tackles very serious and meaningful topics, but also has a light side that focuses on summer vacation and falling in love.  It has everything I love in a contemporary read.  I could go on for days, but instead, I’m just going to share a few highlights as to why I think Something Like Gravity should be on your summer reading list.

 

  1. Authentic characters experiencing realistic and relatable struggles.  Both Chris and Maia are characters that I felt tremendous sympathy for.  I think the author does a wonderful job of authentically conveying the emotions they each must be feeling as they deal with their own internal conflicts.  Chris is dealing with not only what happened to him at school, but also his mother’s reaction to him coming out as transgender, not to mention everything that’s going through his own head about the fact that he is transgender.  Maia is grieving for her sister and struggling to figure out how to move forward. Her parents have pretty much shut down as well, so Maia is just in an all around unhealthy environment.  Both Chris and Maia are having to rediscover who they are and that journey of self-discovery is one I think we can all relate to.
  1. Complicated family dynamics.  I have a thing for books that focus on families, especially if those families come across as real.  And for me, real is messy and complicated.   Both Chris and Maia’s families score high marks in the messy and complicated department.  Chris is caught between a father who is supportive of him and a mother who isn’t, and because both of them have become so overprotective ever since his attack, he is practically suffocating at home.  His way out is cool Aunt Isobel who supports him no matter what, even if it causes friction between her and Chris’ mother.  Watching the intricacies of those relationships play out was fascinating, as was Maia’s situation, where not only is everyone in her home grieving over the death of her sister, but apparently her parents are actually divorced but still living under the same roof, so it’s tension city all the way around, with Maia trapped in the middle.
  1. Meaningful themes. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” This quote from Anais Nin is a running theme throughout the book and it just really resonated with me because it’s true on so many levels.  It means that for better or worse, our experiences color and shape everything we see.  And it also means that no two people see things exactly the same.  I think it’s an important message for everyone, to help them understand themselves and to understand others.
  1. Transgender representation.  I think this is actually the first book I’ve read that has transgender representation in it.  I enjoy diverse reads so I was pleased to see a transgender teen as a main character in the story.  Not being transgender myself, I can’t speak as to how accurate the representation is, but it felt like the author handled it in a respectful and sensitive way.
  1. Romance/First Love. I’m not really a romantic at heart, but I did really like the romance in this book.  There’s just something about falling in love for the first time, especially a summer romance, that makes me smile and I liked the chemistry between Maia and Chris.  They were sweet together and I was really rooting for them to be able to open up to one another about what they’re hiding so that they had a chance for a long-term relationship.

 

Amber Smith’s Something Like Gravity is a heartfelt story about love, loss, and finding oneself.  I thought it was a beautiful story and would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary romances, coming of age stories, and diverse reads.  If you enjoyed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited, I think you would enjoy Something Like Gravity as well.

 

 

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book DepositoryiTunes | Google Books

 

 SYNOPSIS:

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

 

GIVEAWAY

Win a copy of Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith (U.S. only). Giveaway ends July 2, 2019.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

 

June 18th

 

June 19th

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Favourite Quotes

 

June 20th

The YA Obsessed – Review
A Walk To Wonderland – Review + Favourite Quotes
Life of a Literary Nerd – Review + Favourite Quotes
Dazzled by Books – Promotional Post

 

June 21st

Kait Plus Books – Guest Post
Camillea Reads – Review
Gwendalyn_books_ – Promotional Post

 

June 22nd

Morgan Vega – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes
Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post

 

June 23rd

Literary Meanderings – Promotional Post

 

June 24th

The Bookish Libra – Review
Bookish_Kali – Review + Favourite Quotes
A Bookish Escape – Review
A Dream Within A Dream – Promotional Post
four-stars

About Amber Smith

Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult novels The Way I Used to Be, The Last to Let Go, and Something Like Gravity. An advocate for increased awareness of gendered violence, as well as LGBTQ equality, she writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue surrounding these issues. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her partner and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. You can find her online at AmberSmithAuthor.com.

Book Review & Giveaway: ALL EYES ON US by Kit Frick

Book Review & Giveaway:  ALL EYES ON US by Kit FrickAll Eyes on Us by Kit Frick
four-stars
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 4, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Thanks so much to Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me in the blog tour for All Eyes on Us.  I’m thrilled to be able to share my thoughts on this compelling read today.

Kit Frick’s latest novel All Eyes on Us is a riveting thriller that kept me guessing from start to finish. It follows Amanda Kelly and Rosalie Bell.  Amanda comes from a family of social climbers.  The Kellys have gotten themselves into some financial difficulties and are secretly hoping that an alliance with the wealthiest family in town, the Shaws, will put them in better standing.  That alliance would of course come about by having Amanda marry the Shaw’s son, Carter.  When the story opens, these two have been dating for years and practically have their lives together mapped out, although all is not perfect as Carter is a known cheater.  Rosalie is a lesbian in a fake relationship with a boy because she’s trying to fool her family into thinking she’s straight.  The deception is wearing her out though and she knows it’s not fair to the boy since he has no idea she’s gay either.  The boy of course is our cheater, Carter.

Amanda and Rosalie find their lives unexpectedly intertwined when an anonymous texter, known only to them as “Private,” goes after them both with an ultimatum – either help take Carter down or the texter will take them down.  For Amanda, that would mean exposing her family’s financial woes, while for Rosalie, it would of course mean outing her to her family.

Who is this person and what do have they have against Carter that they’re willing to make Amanda and Rosalie collateral damage in their effort to bring Carter down?

 

* * * * *

5 REASONS WHY ALL EYES ON US SHOULD BE ON YOUR MUST-READ LIST

 

All Eyes on Us sounds pretty cool, right?  Now I want to dive just a little deeper and share some of the highlights of the story for me.  If you love these qualities as much as I do, then All Eyes on Us is a must-read for you!

 

  1. A Suspenseful Read Filled with Twists and Turns.  The synopsis on Goodreads compares All Eyes on Us to Pretty Little Liars and I think this comparison is spot on.  The story definitely has a Pretty Little Liars (or maybe even a Gossip Girl) vibe to it with the anonymous texter and the taunting threats he or she kept making.  Just like I was with Pretty Little Liars and A’s identity, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out who Private was and was suspicious of pretty much every character in the book.   The writing is also fast-paced, which makes this book very easy to binge read.  Always a good thing when you’re dying to get to the big reveal!
  1. Is it a religion or is it a cult?  I found the religious group in the story to be extremely disturbing. Every time I read about something they had done to a person in the name of “saving” them, I just wanted to scream.  Frick’s presentation of the power of this radical group had me mesmerized though. I spent much of the book fascinated by them and how they managed to indoctrinate so many people to their extreme conservative ways.  It felt more like a cult than it did a religion and if someone didn’t follow along with every one of their beliefs, they would be told they’re going to burn in hell.
  1. Messy, Complicated Characters. Amanda and Rosalie both really drew me into the story because even though they come from completely different backgrounds and on the surface have nothing in common, they ultimately have one thing in common – their parents are trying to run their lives and dictate who they should and shouldn’t be with.  Amanda’s parents have her life planned out to the extent that it’s little short of an arranged marriage with her childhood sweetheart, Carter, even though they are all aware that Carter has cheated on her at least once already.  Rosalie’s parents, on the other hand, refuse to accept that Rosalie is a lesbian and are determined to “fix” her.  The only time she’s allowed out socially is to date boys.  Amanda is desperate to hold on to Carter so as not to disappoint her parents, while Rosalie is equally desperate not to let her parents control her.  Their predicaments lead both girls to make some questionable, potentially hurtful, choices along the way, but I understood where their hearts were so I was sympathetic to both of them.  They are both definitely living in dysfunctional family environments.
  1. The Dangers of Conversion Therapy. I loved that Frick wasn’t afraid to tackle tough topics in this story.  In addition to it being a riveting thriller, All Eyes on Us also goes a step further and exposes how truly harmful conversion therapy is and that it can have lasting negative psychological effects. It was heartbreaking to read Rosalie’s painful flashbacks to when her parents and their minister did everything in their power to try to get rid of her homosexuality.
  1.  A Message That Resonates. The overriding message All Eyes On Us conveys, that you can’t force a person to be someone they’re not, is so important.  People are who they are, and if you want them in your life, you have to accept them that way.  Trying to force them to be otherwise is just so psychologically damaging.

 

If suspenseful stories like Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl are your thing, then you should definitely give All Eyes on Us a try.  It will keep you on the edge of your seat!

 

 

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Kobo | iBooks | IndieBound

 

 SYNOPSIS:

PRIVATE NUMBER: Wouldn’t you look better without a cheater on your arm?
AMANDA: Who is this?

The daughter of small town social climbers, Amanda Kelly is deeply invested in her boyfriend, real estate heir Carter Shaw. He’s kind, ambitious, the town golden boy—but he’s far from perfect. Because behind Amanda’s back, Carter is also dating Rosalie.

PRIVATE NUMBER: I’m watching you, Sweetheart.
ROSALIE: Who IS this?

Rosalie Bell is fighting to remain true to herself and her girlfriend—while concealing her identity from her Christian fundamentalist parents. After years spent in and out of conversion “therapy,” her own safety is her top priority. But maintaining a fake, straight relationship is killing her from the inside.

When an anonymous texter ropes Amanda and Rosalie into a bid to take Carter down, the girls become collateral damage—and unlikely allies in a fight to unmask their stalker before Private uproots their lives.

PRIVATE NUMBER: You shouldn’t have ignored me. Now look what you made me do…

 

GIVEAWAY

One winner will receive a finished copy of Kit Frick’s All Eyes on Us.  The giveaway runs from June 10-June 17th and I will email the winner to get their mailing address.  Sorry, U.S. only per tour guidelines. Also, no giveaway accounts.  Please note:  There are several giveaways taking place during this blog tour.  If you enter more than one of them and happen to win multiple copies, FFBC requires that you decline the second book won or face disqualification.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

 

June 10th

Hauntedbybooks– Review & Favorite Quotes

June 11th

Morgan Vega– Review

June 12th

Utopia State of Mind– Review/Creative Post

June 13th

onemused– Bookstagram Review
Snark & Squee– Review

June 14th

Bookishly Nerdy– Review & Favorite Quotes
Cinnamon Summers– Bookstagram
four-stars

About Kit Frick

Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. She is the author of the young adult novels See All the Stars, All Eyes on Us (2019), and Windermere (2020), all from Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, and the poetry collection A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press). Her fiction is represented by Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management / Folio Jr.

Mini Reviews: VIRTUALLY YOURS & WILD AND CROOKED

Mini Reviews:  VIRTUALLY YOURS & WILD AND CROOKEDVirtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash
three-half-stars
on June 4, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Modern love plus online anonymity is a recipe for romantic disaster in this lighthearted new romance from the author of The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

How bad can one little virtual lie be?

NYU freshman Mariam Vakilian hasn’t dated anyone in five months, not since her high school sweetheart Caleb broke up with her. So, when she decides to take advantage of an expiring coupon and try out a new virtual reality dating service, it’s sort of a big deal.

It’s an even bigger deal when it chooses as one of her three matches none other than Caleb himself. That has to be a sign, right?

Except that her other match, Jeremy, just happens to be her new best friend IRL.

Mariam’s heart is telling her one thing, but the app is telling her another. So, which should she trust? Is all fair in modern love?

Review:

Sarvenaz Tash’s Virtually Yours is a delightful and lighthearted read that is sure to please romance fans.  It follows Mariam Vakilian, who is a freshman at NYU.  Right before leaving for college, Mariam and her long-time boyfriend Caleb broke up and now Mariam finds herself struggling to move on and date new people.  When she receives a coupon from a new virtual reality dating service called HEAVR, she decides to give it a go. Maybe it will give her the kickstart she needs to get over Caleb. HEAVR throws a monkey wrench into Mariam’s plan, however, when one of her top three matches ends up being Caleb of all people.  Mariam is torn because as much as she knows she should move on, surely this must be a sign that she and Caleb were meant to be together, right?

Mariam was my absolute favorite part of Virtually Yours.  She’s incredibly relatable because she’s so perfectly imperfect.  She’s a sweet girl, one I could easily see myself making friends with if I was at NYU, She’s also that friend that you love so much, but at the same time, find yourself wanting to scream at because she doesn’t think and ends up doing cringy things.  Or maybe she’s me.  Haven’t we all made bad decisions at times even when our hearts are in the right place?  Anyway, I just loved Mariam, flaws and all.  I especially loved her journey because at the beginning of the story, she’s clinging to her past so tightly that she can’t even see what’s right in front of her face.  It was fun to watch her “wake up” so to speak.  For that reason, I’d consider Virtually Yours equal parts rom-com, coming of age story.

My biggest issue with Virtually Yours is that I found the HEAVR match results to be unrealistic.  I mean, seriously, if you select ‘Worldwide’ in terms of who you’re willing to be matched with, what are the odds that out of all the people in the world using that service, two out of your top three matches end up being people you know? That just really annoyed me and had me considering not finishing the book, but I finally let it go and ended up enjoying the rest of the story.  I was also not a fan of the catfishing in the novel.  I understood why it was there but could have done without it.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy read that will leave you with a smile on your face, give Virtually Yours a try. You won’t regret it!  3.5 STARS

 

 

Mini Reviews:  VIRTUALLY YOURS & WILD AND CROOKEDWild and Crooked by Leah Thomas
Also by this author: When Light Left Us
four-stars
Published by Bloomsbury YA on June 4, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Critically-acclaimed author Leah Thomas blends a small-town setting with the secrets of a long-ago crime, in a compelling novel about breaking free from the past.

In Samsboro, Kentucky, Kalyn Spence's name is inseparable from the brutal murder her father committed when he was a teenager. Forced to return to town, Kalyn must attend school under a pseudonym . . . or face the lingering anger of Samsboro's citizens, who refuse to forget the crime.

Gus Peake has never had the luxury of redefining himself. A Samsboro native, he's either known as the "disabled kid" because of his cerebral palsy, or as the kid whose dad was murdered. Gus just wants to be known as himself.

When Gus meets Kalyn, her frankness is refreshing, and they form a deep friendship. Until their families' pasts emerge. And when the accepted version of the truth is questioned, Kalyn and Gus are caught in the center of a national uproar. Can they break free from a legacy of inherited lies and chart their own paths forward?.

Review:

Leah Thomas’ latest novel Wild and Crooked is a story about family, friendship, and not letting mistakes from the past dictate your present and future.  The story follows two small town teens, Gus Peake and Kalyn Spence.  Gus has lived in Samsboro, Kentucky all his life and is known either as that “disabled kid” because of his cerebral palsy or as that kid whose dad was murdered.  Kalyn Spence has just returned to Samsboro and is going to school under an assumed name because her father is the one in jail for murdering Gus’ dad and the Spence name is therefore infamous in Samsboro.  Gus and Kalyn run into each other one day and a fast friendship ensues.  The only problem is that Kalyn has no idea Gus’ dad is who her father is accused of murdering, and Gus has no idea that Kalyn is the daughter of his dad’s accused murderer.  When they each finally learn the truth, it’s a tough pill to swallow and one that will test the bonds of their newfound friendship.

I adored both Gus and Kalyn, Gus because he’s just such a sweetheart.  He just wants so badly to be defined by something other than his disability or by his family’s tragedy.  Gus is immediately drawn to Kalyn, not because she’s the pretty new girl at school, but instead because when they meet, she immediately treats him like she would any other kid at school.  For Gus, Kalyn is like a breath of fresh air because she sees the person behind the disability.  Kalyn is drawn to Gus for similar reasons. She has basically reinvented herself and is acting like the perfect little southern belle every day at school.  It’s draining after a while, and when Kalyn realizes Gus can basically see right through her act, he becomes a refuge for her where she can be herself.  I really loved watching their friendship grow over the course of the book and was really rooting for them to be able to withstand whatever life threw at them.

Even though Wild and Crooked is over 400 pages long, I devoured it in just over a day and I attribute that to Leah Thomas’ masterful way of weaving together a moving story of friendship with the gripping story of what really happened between Gus and Kalyn’s fathers all those years ago.  The anger and prejudice of the Samsboro town folk was palpable once they realized who Kalyn was, and even though she clearly had nothing to do with the murder, in their eyes, she’s guilty by association.  I thought Thomas did a brilliant job of realistically capturing their mob-like mentality.  Thomas also had me simultaneously cheering on this blossoming friendship and sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to find out the truth about the murder.

If you’re looking for a compelling story about friendship and overcoming the past, I highly recommend Wild and Crooked. 4 STARS

three-half-stars

About Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas once wrote from a house in the woods, and now an apartment more or less by the sea (well, less). Her debut novel BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME was a 2016 Morris Award finalist, and its sequel, NOWHERE NEAR YOU, is out now from Bloomsbury. Her third YA science fiction novel, WHEN LIGHT LEFT US, hits shelves in early 2018.

A graduate of Clarion 2010, her short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Black Static, Ideomancer, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye, among others. She’s mostly a dork and always feels uncomfortable about author bios. If she’s not writing, she’s likely teaching or cosplaying. Follow her on instagram (@fellowhermit), or on tumblr (cuttoothom).

About Sarvenaz Tash

Sarvenaz Tash is the author of The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love (an Amazon Best Book of the Year, YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers), Virtually Yours, Three Day Summer and The Mapmaker and the Ghost. She was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, which means she got to spend most of college running around and making movies (it was a lot of fun). She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, Emmy-award winning copywriting, and professional tweeting for the likes of Bravo and MTV. Sarvenaz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.

Review: BRIGHT BURNING STARS by A.K. Small

Review:  BRIGHT BURNING STARS by A.K. SmallBright Burning Stars by A.K. Small
four-stars
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on May 21, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 
 
 
 

Today is my stop on the Algonquin Young Readers blog tour for A.K. Small’s debut novel, Bright Burning Stars.  I’m thrilled to be able to share my thoughts on this fantastic read with all of you.  Thanks so much to Brittani from Algonquin for inviting me to take part in the tour.

 

BRIGHT BURNING STARS Review

A.K. Small’s Bright Burning Stars is a powerful debut that exposes the dark underbelly of competition at an elite ballet school in Paris.  The story follows Marine Duval and Kate Sanders, who have been best friends ever since they first started training at the school.  As the girls get older, the training gets more and more intense and the stakes get higher.  What every student wants is “the prize” – a spot in a prestigious ballet company.  The problem?  Only one male and one female student are chosen each year to win the prize and the competition is truly fierce, with students resorting to desperate measures to give themselves an edge over their fellow competitors.  Can Marine and Kate’s friendship survive in such a cutthroat environment?

This was such an addictive read for me, in part because of the nature of the competition itself and because of the toll it took on each of the student dancers.  There was just so much tension and suspense! I couldn’t stop turning the pages because I wanted to know who was going to win, of course, but also what the students were willing to do in order to win.  The very nature of the competition pits students against one another, forcing them into isolation from one another rather than encouraging them to bond.  As if that weren’t enough, there is also the regular ranking of students based on performance, which leads the students to define their self-worth strictly in terms of what their ranking happens to be at that moment and their sense of worth goes up or down as the rankings change.

I think the author does an incredible job of vividly and realistically portraying just how unhealthy such an environment is and what a strain it can put on even the strongest of friendships.  This is an environment primed for mental health struggles, drug abuse and eating disorders in the strive for a perfect dancer’s body, endless cattiness and jealousy, and even suicidal thoughts.  I found the challenges that both Marine and Kate faced to be riveting, and between the physical and emotional strain they were both under, I truly worried from page to page if both of them, and their friendship, could withstand the immense pressure they were under.

I also loved the way the author starkly contrasts the exquisite beauty of the dance itself with all of that ugliness that takes place behind the scenes.  I thought it made for a very powerful read.

Bright Burning Stars is a moving read about the drive for perfection, unrealistic expectation, and the need to sometimes reevaluate what’s most important in life.  I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in a dark story that will leave you with plenty to think about long after you’ve finished reading.

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.

four-stars

About A.K. Small

A.K. SMALL was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.