Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"This is What it Feels Like When Your Life Starts Happening" - DUMPLIN' by Julie Murphy - A Review



RELEASE DATE: September 15th, 2015

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: Kindle/384 pages

PUBLISHER: Balzar & Bray



Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine— Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

EXPECTATION: The cover. Nuff said! It just sounded like an adorable story I would love. 

This ended up being one of those books I highlight the bejesus out of. I just loved the writing in this story. Julie Murphy's style is delightful. If there was a TICKLED ME PINK category for Best Novels of 2015, this one would win it hands down. 

Okay, so THIS is one of the highlighted bits I saved to delight over. THIS totally captures the attitude of Dumplin' and the perfected style in which this novel was written:

'I don't sigh. I want to, but my mom will hear. It doesn't matter how loud the TV is. It could be two years from now and I could be away at college in some other town, hundreds of miles away, and my mom would hear me sigh all the way from home and call me to say, "Now, Dumplin', you know I hate when you sigh. There is nothing less attractive than a discontent young woman."'

That is just gold! I just felt that there were so many quotable lines in this book. I loved it. 'My first kiss. It's the fastest thing that lasts forever.' Lines like that. Murphy just nails what you have always thought about a thing. And, one of my faves... "Well, aren't you just having a come apart?" I found myself wanting to use her lines...hoping they'd become catch phrases. :-) "Sometimes half of doing something is pretending that you can."

Such gorgeous lines. I know, I know...a book is more than the sum of its most gorgeous lines. ultimate favourite from DUMPLIN'? I must share it...

'I want to always look at it, hanging in my closet, and remember this night in November when I stepped into my own light.'

God, I loved that line. I stopped dead in my tracks when I read that line.

Is this a review? Not really. I'm so bad at reviews when I love a book to bits.

Willowdean was a delightful character. She took on entering the beauty pageant her mother ran as a way of saying she's unwilling to accept that only perfect 10s can be a part of that world. But she also took it on as a bit of a lark. I loved her defiance and I loved that there were girls who accompanied her into this foray into the land of the beautiful and flawless. I loved the message that put out there. It was almost like a take-back protest by the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys, a sly little 'we're not gonna take it anymore' from the school outcasts.

The fact that Willowdean's rebellion was steeped in Dolly Parton made it all the more lovely, really. I even loved the awkward secretive and then not so secretive love interest in Bo. That character was so well played. There's not much I did not like about this book. Every time I prepared to pick it up again, I found myself excited to discover the next highlight-able nugget.

Rounding out the story was Willowdean's relationship with her mother. SO well played. It hurt sometimes to see how raw her oblivious mother left her. But Willow always seemed capable of the bounce back...which is another thing I liked. She was strong, and at times unfazed by things that might cripple a weaker person. Her other reason for taking on the pageant, her recently dearly departed aunt, was just a lovely thing. Willowdean Dickson is a REAL person. So strong and so vulnerable. I loved her voice.

Do yourself a favour and read this feel-good story. I dare say, it tickled me pink. :-)


Find JULIE MURPHY online at her WEBSITE, on Twitter, and, on Instagram.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera - A Review



RELEASE DATE: June 2nd, 2015

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: Kindle/304 pages




In the months after his father's suicide, it's been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again--but he's still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he's slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron's crew notices, and they're not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can't deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can't stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard? (From GOODREADS)

EXPECTATION: Fear? Anxiety? Excitement. I've been planning on reading this one since I first heard about it, a few months before it dropped. I am only now getting around to it. I knew it would cut like a knife. The synopsis told me this much.


This book sucker-punched me in the throat. It took every thought on homosexuality I ever had and made it a what-if. What if we could have that part of ourselves wiped out of our memory for good? What if we could remove it from who we are, what we are? What if we could escape that life? If we could, would we? I understood immediately the main character's desire to alter his memories and to wipe the existence of his sexuality from his mind. I understood it in a very real and heartbreaking way.

This book messed with my head. I wanted to simultaneously slap the main character across the head, root for him, and watch with anticipation to see if he is ultimately able to escape the imagined death sentence he finds himself in. I was all over the charts on this one...mostly because I think this is something a hell of a lot of LGBTQ teens struggle with. This is a must read. And not only for LGBTQ persons. If you want to see their internal struggle and turmoil, to understand them better--to walk a mile in their shoes--read this book!

The whole premise of More Happy Than Not is essentially about the main character, Aaron Soto, attempting to flee his homosexuality. But where we begin is not really the beginning. Because of the nature of this rollercoaster of a story, we are originally led to believe this is about Aaron coming to terms with the suicide of his father and then his own failed suicide attempt. But that's simply the surface of this amazingly executed tale of homophobia, depression, loss, poverty, friendship, and the awkward and horrific inner turmoil of not being comfortable in one's own skin...with the essence of one's selfness.

One of the first questions I formed as the story unraveled from the original suicide and loss thread, and we began to see the unfolding of Aaron's sexuality questioning while in the throes of a new friendship with a boy named Thomas, was HOW MANY PEOPLE NEED TO ACCEPT YOU BEFORE IT'S OKAY TO ACCEPT YOURSELF? Aaron knew, even as his feelings for Thomas grew, that his friends would not be okay with him liking boys. And there was already a growing strain between him and his friends, possibly as a result of his father's suicide and his own failed attempt...or possibly because of other circumstances not yet revealed to the reader. The reader may have a sense that there is more than meets the eye on this issue. Aaron struggles to come clean about his sexuality even to his mother and brother...even though his mother pointedly tells him she would love him no matter what.

In an effort to forego the struggle of dealing with his burgeoning sexuality, Aaron considers the Leteo Institute's memory altering procedure...maybe he can simply erase the fact that he is gay from his mind. It would answer all his prayers in one fell swoop. He could keep his girlfriend and be straight with her and carry on in a normal heterosexual existence.

Oh yeah, Aaron also has a girlfriend. Genevieve is a visual artist who is very much in love with a point where it is dangerous. She wants him. Even when things start to unravel she still wants to hold on to him. As Thomas comes into his life, Genevieve is temporarily leaving it for a getaway at an art camp. His struggles over not wanting to hurt her upon her return by revealing his secret sexual desires are palpable. But his unnamed secret becomes even more complicated when an incredibly HUGE plot-twist interrupts the forward motion of this story with the expertise and precision of a sword. We, the reader, find that we have been kept in the dark about a few things.

The plot twist works well. At first, I felt a bit violated by the deception...but I almost immediately got over it. It turned out to be an extremely heartrending twist. I did not see it coming, and it served to show the sheer depths of Aaron's sexuality struggles. His struggle is so true and so real and so cut deep. I can't even begin to count the number of times I wished I could start over...erase everything and simply start over in a more friendly accepting environment. Somewhere, anywhere that accepts you for who you are. But in real're always going to find haters. You will never escape judgement. This is why Aaron considers NOT to alter the opinion of those around him but to alter his own mind instead. But some things come at a price. Sometimes there are even more tragic things than accepting who you are even at the price of losing everything around you.

I found this story to be completely and utterly heartbreaking. But I also found it to be an oasis of hope. Perhaps the LGBTQ youth who read it will find a perverse comfort in it...if only in discovering they are not alone in their struggle at self-acceptance while simultaneously discovering who ultimately will not accept them. Sadly, many of them will far too easily imagine a world where they would erase their sexuality from their memory in order to have a more comfortable existence.

At one point, Aaron states, "I can't believe I was once that guy who carved a smile into his wrist because he couldn't find happiness, that guy who thought he would find it in death." But I can. I can believe it wholeheartedly. It's not easy. And Adam Silvera painted a perfect picture of the struggle. One can only hope that books like this one change people, make them more tolerant. But it's not the LGBTQ people who need to change. It's those who oppose them for simply being who they are...who they unalterably emphatically are. 

"I'm more happy than not. Don't forget me." ~ Aaron Soto, More Happy Than Not (Adam Silvera)

SIZE: 5 1/2

Find Adam Silvera online at his WEBSITE, on Twitter, and, on Instagram.

Monday, August 31, 2015




RELEASE DATE: August 25th, 2015

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: Kindle/240 pages





When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.

George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.(GOODREADS)

EXPECTATION: From the moment I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. It was one of those books I counted down to the release date.


Right at the onset of George, I recognized something in the secrecy of the main character, George. In the opening sentences, there’s a passage that reads, ‘George needed to be certain the house was empty’. After elaborately casing the house for others, George fishes beneath the pile of teddy bears and fluffy bunnies in her closet for a flat denim bag that contained a treasure…her fashion magazines. George loved to get lost in the glossy pages of these magazines, dreaming about the day she could one day be a woman like the ones on its pages, dreaming of the glamour and the beauty products and the outfits and the everything.

One thing you need to know about George is that George is Melissa. You see, the world still sees her as a boy named George. But George is Melissa and Melissa is a girl.

Keeping her glamour magazines a secret are the least of George’s problems. This year’s featured book at school is Charlotte’s Web. Different grades do different things with the book. George’s grade is charged with putting on a play. And George knows she would be the best Charlotte ever. Her best friend Kelly sees nothing wrong with this…so the two go about rehearsing their lines together. But come audition day, George’s teacher, Ms. Udell, is slightly less than amused by George’s audition. But can she stop the girl who would shine the most as the beloved spider?

Alex Gino’s George is raw, honest, and perfectly rendered for the age group of the target Middle Grade audience. It’s a heart-warming story of a girl coming to terms with herself. And it is beautiful. For me, some of the noteworthy moments in this lovely tale include George’s comeuppance of the bully, Jeff. It was so delicious and perfect, and so George. As well, the preparation for the trip to the zoo was stellar…beautiful scene where two best girlfriends, Melissa and Kelly, get dressed up for a day trip. Possibly one of my favourite scenes was the interaction George had with her older brother when she revealed her 'secret' to him. You will love so many scenes in this book. As it's a quick read, I don't really want to give too much more away.

I’d recommend this quick read to anyone…it certainly transcends the Middle Grade market, even as it fits perfectly within it.

I look forward to more from Alex Gino. They have an excellent way of opening eyes without being preachy or lesson-y while doing so. Their ability to tackle the important transgender issue, while telling a wonderful and engaging story was flawless. I can’t wait to see what Alex does next!

EXPECTATION MET?: I waited quite a while for this one. Couldn't wait to read it, actually. It exceeded my expectations nicely. Such a satisfying read. And I'm so glad it exists in the lower reading category of Middle Grade. It will find its audience...books like this always do. Books like this are salvation to those who need them.


Want to learn more about the author? Visit Alex at their website (click on the pic below):

Friday, May 8, 2015

Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone is Some Kind of Fantastic! (Review)

Some Kind of Normal
By Juliana Stone
Sourcebooks Fire
May 5, 2015
Praise for Juliana Stone

“Just what readers need.” –School Library Journal

“A contemporary romance with a conscience…Stone writes it with confidence and style.” –Kirkus

“The classic miscommunication, the emotional pushing and pulling, the ‘will she?’ and ‘won’t he?’ of the destined-to-be-in-love. Readers of Miranda Kenneally, Jenny Han, and Susane Colasanti will enjoy Stone.” –VOYA

“A story of family, first love, and forgiveness. I couldn’t stop reading. I loved it!” –Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan

Book Info: 

What is normal? For Trevor, normal was playing fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes, and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves him with no band, no teammates, and no chance of graduating. It’s kind of hard to ace your finals when you’ve been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor, those beautiful blue eyes catching every flaw.

For Everly, normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service, and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor’s daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.

This achingly beautiful story about two damaged teens struggling through pain and loss to redefine who they are, to their family, to themselves, and to each other is sure to melt your heart.

Juliana Stone: USA Today bestselling author Juliana Stone fell in love with books in the fifth grade when her teacher introduced her to Tom Sawyer. A tomboy at heart, she split her time between baseball, books, and music—three passions that carried over into adulthood. When she’s not singing with her band, she’s thrilled to be writing young adult and adult contemporary romance, and does so from her home in Canada.


RELEASE DATE: May 5th, 2015

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: Kindle/304 pages
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Fire

PURCHASED: NOT PURCHASED - Net Galley in return for an unbiased review

EXPECTATION: This one sounded right up my alley...exactly what I like to read. I had high hopes!


Can we talk about the opening line for a second? 

I used to be the guy who had it all. 

How is that for a hook?! The promise of what was lost, of a dire future. What happened? I love this kind of hook.

I was invincible. I had goals and dreams, and I was damn close to getting them. Until I wasn't.

Stone manages to pull the reader in with just a few sharp sentences that serve to kind of take your breath away. The anticipation of story is palpable.

I love sweet contemporary young adult romance stories. This one hit all the right notes, flawlessly. Trevor and Everly are two characters that will have a place in the hearts of those readers who love Eleanor and Park, and Hazel Grace and Augustus.

Everly is the looks-perfect-to-the-unsuspecting-outside-world heroine with extremely heavy secret issues in the home-camp. Trevor is the boy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and had all his hopes and dreams dashed in an instant. This set-up almost guarantees a lovely heartening read.

Trevor was in a car accident when his best friend Nate drove under the influence of alcohol. Trevor's hopes and dreams? A rock band. Shooting to the anticipation of stardom and having it ripped away from you just when you can start to taste its sweetness is one of the big issues Trevor faces. But the biggest is the brain injury he suffered as a result of the car accident. Stone portrayed his struggles wonderfully. Trevor was at times inexplicably hostile, scared, determined, and confused. His fear when he started to have seizures was palpable. What began as regret for losing his chance to be a rockstar became something deeper as he began to fear for health itself.

And Everly, though at times in tune with Trevor's coping difficulties, was going through just as huge an issue at home. She is losing all faith in her preacher father, who is keeping secrets that can most definitely shatter her safe and happy family home. And Everly is the only one who knows, or thinks she knows, what those secrets are. As her situation eats away at her like a cancer, the reader can really empathize/sympathize with the huge burden she carries.

One isn't sure which of these two characters is dealing with the heavier load. When one of those characters is suffering a traumatic brain injury that threatens his entire future, it truly is a testament to Stone's ability as a storyteller to make the reader feel just as deeply about the other main character's situation.

Without giving too much of the story away, it was a wonderful ride. The two characters who at first almost loathed the possibility of hanging out with each other fell in love in a truly authentic way. Not instantly. Not perfectly. Not gushingly. At the mere idea of spending his summer being tutored by Everly, Trevor said, "The only thing worse than being stuck in Twin Oaks for the summer without my best buddy, Nathan, is being stuck in Twin Oaks for the summer and having to spend most of my time with Everly Jenkins." That is not a boy who loves a girl. That is outright dread.

But it is in their weaknesses, their individual heartbreak, that Everly and Trevor slowly strip away the wall of dread they have put up against each other. Their brokenness and pain allows empathy to enter into that place where dread and stubborn near-dislike once lived. And in slowly realizing they can talk to each other about their pain, they begin to find a common ground. They kiss.

This is a lovely story. Immediately upon reading the last sentence I downloaded BOYS LIKE YOU, which is SOME KIND OF NORMAL's predecessor. You don't need to read Boys Like You first...but you do learn more about what happened to Trevor in it. AND what happened to Nate after he made that terrible mistake that put Trevor into his new world of brain injury victim. In fact, I liked reading Some Kind of Normal first. Everly and Trevor are two characters who will stay with me for a long time. Stone did a fantastic job sculpting them into real live vibrant characters. You will love them. 

EXPECTATION?: I really adored this book. It surpassed my expectation. Though I will be honest and say I was a bit leery at the onset when it was revealed that Everly was the preacher's daughter. But the issues she dealt with on that front were pretty extraordinary and the possible good girl meets rockstar bad boy cliche was quickly erased in the unveiling of her character. This book is filled with tender moments...I adored it.



Also by Juliana Stone:

Boys Like You

Sourcebooks Fire

Book Info: 

Two Broken souls…one hot summer

Nate Everet’s life was all about acoustic guitar, girls in short shorts, and hot Southern nights.Until the accident.

Monroe Blackwell’s life was full of soccer goals, flirty skirts, and bright city lights. Until the accident.

Now Nate has a best friend who might never wake up, a summer of community service, and enough guilt to drown him. Monroe has a family that’s falling apart, a summer of banishment to her grandma’s, and a choking grief that makes it hard to breathe.

Nate and Monroe are two lost souls struggling with grief and guilt. But together, they have a chance at acceptance and finally finding the forgiveness they crave.

And now for a special treat! Here's an excerpt from SOME KIND OF NORMAL...hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Excerpt from Some Kind of Normal: 
“You got any?” he asked.
“Any what?”
“Me?” I had to laugh at that. Wow. Before last year that would have been grounds for major punishment. Heck, up until my senior year, I hadn’t been allowed to wear lip gloss. Now I wasn’t so sure that my mom would even notice, and since I avoided my dad whenever I could…
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “My skin is untouched.”
His eyes widened a bit, and I felt heat creep up my neck. Great. Now I was blushing again.
“Untouched,” he said with that lopsided smile that made my stomach dip. “I like that.”
“You do?”
“Yep. A clean slate. There’s something almost poetic about that, you know? Tragic too. How many people get a do--over?”
Trevor reached for my hand, and though my first instinct was to snatch it back, his long fingers enveloped mine before I had the chance. He turned my hand over so that my palm faced up and then traced the little blue lines that ran down my wrist.
I can’t lie. It felt weird and good, and my heart took off once more, so fast that I was surprised he couldn’t hear it.
“This is…kind of…like ink,” he said, his words a little slow as if he was thinking hard. “But it’s alive.”
He glanced up again, and all I could do was nod before my eyes dropped to his hand. Mine was still there, small and pale next to his large palm and tanned skin. I saw the thin blue veins that ran down my wrist, the ones that carried blood from my heart, electrifying my cells and feeding my body.
His thumb rested just beneath my pulse, and I swallowed thickly. Crap, he was going to feel how fast it was, and that would be embarrassing.
“Your fingers are rough.” I blushed harder and thought that there was no way I could sound any more like an idiot. Not even if I was trying.
“Yeah,” he answered. “It’s from playing guitar. I practice a lot so my calluses are nice and strong.”
“I used to play piano.”
Wow. Good comeback. I guess it was better than a clarinet or trombone, but really. Dork much?

…Had he always looked this intense?
“What?” he asked. He smiled again and I thought that on a scale of one to ten, his smile was a total eleven. “You’re into the classics. That’s cool. Didn’t picture that.”
“Really. What exactly did you picture?” Shoot. Did I really want to hear this?
“I don’t know. PBS and that Jane Austen?”
Okay. First off, I was impressed that he knew who Jane Austen was, and secondly…he knew who Jane Austen was!
I dropped my eyes, because I was pretty sure that my cheeks were as red as the roses planted just outside the library. Trevor Lewis wasn’t anything like what I thought he’d be. He wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t arrogant. He wasn’t slow or weird.
He seemed pretty normal to me.
You know, for a guy with tattoos and blue hair.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


TITLE: Normalish

AUTHOR: Margaret Lesh

RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2015

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: Kindle/175 pages

PUBLISHER: Story Rhyme Publishing



Fifteen-year-old Stacy questions the strange world of high school, love, her role in a harsh universe, and life, in Normalish.

People tell you high school's so great and wonderful, but they're lying. It's mostly horrible and full of disappointment. It sucks. Your best friend abandons you. The jerk you're in love with pretends to be into you, and then the big dump. The boy you've really clicked with as a friend decides to go all crushy over you, so you break his heart just like yours was -- smashed into little pieces. Your sister goes mental, and you get involved with a guy who’s even crazier than she is (who you know is a very bad idea, but you do it anyway). Math only adds another stink of failure to the whole thing.

High school blows. Just ask freshman Stacy. She’d want you to know. (From GOODREADS)

EXPECTATIONS: I know the author through Absolute Write. I expected a great read! I've been intrigued by Normalish ever since I first read the synopsis.

MARKET/GENRE: Young Adult/Contemporary. This also had romantic elements and skated occasionally on the fence of MG...but thematic elements prevent it from landing comfortably there. 


"When I was twelve years old, I learned not to talk about death." ~ Stacy, Normalish

So begins a story of a young girl who eventually talks about everything. Stacy is a character I immediately liked. She's vulnerable and on the page, just like every great young adult character should be. She isn't afraid of telling the reader how she's her vulnerability that drags the reader in. We immediately trust her. This trust allows us to settle into the story and discover where it leads us.

Where the story leads us is onto a roller coaster of events that any young girl of fourteen/fifteen would be lucky to make it out of in one piece. As Stacy is so raw and forthcoming with her emotions, so straightforward with where she stands on everything, we the reader are confident she'll make it through to the other end. But it's still a roller coaster, there's still edge of the seat moments where you hold your breath and hope for the best.

When Normalish opens, the reader is given a few quick insights. Stacy does not have a best friend, she does not have a boyfriend and her father has passed away. These are big obstacles for a fourteen-year-old. She's dealing with the loss of her father, while attempting to ride the wave of no-best-friend-ness, while pining for the day she can say she has a boyfriend. Put into this complicated mess the fact that her sister--the one she shares her bedroom with--is going insane, and you have quite a life to navigate through.

Stacy takes us with her through every step of the story. We are there when the boy she has been losing sleep over finally makes his move and we are there when the wrong boy makes his move. When her sister is temporarily institutionalized, we are there to see Stacy discover yet another boy. As she falls head over heels, we are happy for her. But, of course, we are also reticent. She does, after all, meet this third boy in the institution where her sister is recovering.

I mentioned that Normalish skates on the fence of MG. I say this because Lesh does such a fantastic job of keeping Stacy's voice at her age level. I can't imagine how difficult that would have been. Stacy is fourteen when the story begins and fifteen when it ends. She goes through some pretty tumultuous circumstances in the story, yet she keeps the voice of a young girl at her age level. If not for the serious elements involved, I would suggest this would fit into middle grade as comfortably as it fits into young adult. It's only the issues that Stacy deals with that bumps it into YA only. And Lesh does an amazing job dealing with these issues. Stacy said at the stories onset that she learned not to talk about death, but then she walks us through her story. It is such a poignant look into the harsh reality that some young teens live.

I would happily recommend this book to anyone. I can't really go too far into the story without giving away certain elements. Just know that if you choose to read it, you can trust that Stacy will do a magnificent job telling you what happens to her. She will share the intimate details of her life and her pain...and eventually, her joy. Trust me, you'll want to be there when Stacy tries to discover what it is to be normal...or normalish. Lesh is a fine I will be looking for more from in the future!

Expectation: Met and exceeded. Stacy's story will stay with me for a long time. Her vulnerability makes her a powerful young adult character...a great female lead who is not afraid of being an honest and strong individual. She shows the reader that no matter your circumstances, it does get better. I loved this story.

This title is also available at:

Barnes & Noble



SIZE: 5. A Solid 5!

Monday, February 2, 2015

WHEN EVERYTHING FEELS LIKE THE MOVIES by Raziel Reid Spectacular Spectacular!



RELEASE DATE: October 21st, 2014

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: ebook/176 pages

PUBLISHER: Arsenal Pulp Press



School is just like a film set: there's The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn't fit in. He's not part of The Crew because he isn't about to do anything unless it's court-appointed; he's not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he's not a Movie Star because even though everyone know his name like an A-lister, he isn't invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.

Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It's a total train wreck!

But train wrecks always make the front page.(FROM GOODREADS)

EXPECTATION: I had high hopes for this book as soon as I heard about it. I kept hearing about the GG and the Canada Reads selection...and it became even more intriguing to me. Then, when I heard about petitions to have the GG revoked and the CR selection rescinded, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would be good.


This is an extraordinary book. I loved the YA voice of the narrator. Remarkable. So authentic, perhaps the most authentic YA voice I have ever read. When Everything Feels Like the Movies is a beautiful tragedy filled with hope and longing. I loved this book. I know it's going to stay with me for a very long time. There were so many things I loved about this book, it's impossible to parse into a review. Jude/Judy is a tour-de-force of a character. From page one I wanted her to succeed in the movie of her life. Filled with unrivaled sarcastic wit, the whole thing was just a sheer delight to read. The grit and reality of the narrator's voice was flawless and fearless. A beautiful novel.

"Our principal, Mr. Callagher, was saying through the speaker that the school was throwing a Valentine's dance, and if anyone wanted to help organize it, they should come to the office and lunch and shove their finger up his ass."
"We'd made the back table ours ever since Angela slept with her second cousin and started keeping a list under the table. We always sat there because she always had a new name to add."
I read almost exclusively on my Kindle app on my smartphone now. I love how you can highlight passages and make notes. With this book, however, I stopped highlighting after about 1/4 of the book. Because I was highlighting everything. The two passages above, I believe, are greatly representative of the impeccable voice of the narrator. I try to read every book as a reader, but I have to admit I read this one almost exclusively as a writer. I was blown away by voice. Yes, it had a story too...a fantastic one...and I realize I haven't really touched on that yet. It's just that it's one of those books that makes me want to try harder as a writer, to cross the lines I shy away from.

When Everything Feels Like the Movies is essentially the story of a teen who is larger than the small town that could never truly contain them. What sets it aside from other stories about breaking out of the small and into the limelight is that the character who is struggling to be contained is trans. Jude (Judy) deals with bigotry at every turn...including at home. But she is still able to dream big and have such lofty glamorous goals for herself. Her almost vulgar egoism and arrogance is a delight. Where it should turn a reader off, it endears her to them. We see the raw vulnerability in her swaggering confidence and self-love. True sarcasm comes not from pride, but from the shaky ego that wants to emulate pride. Jude is such a flawlessly written flawed character. He will remain one of my favourite characters for a long time to come.

Highlights for me? The secretive relationship between Jude and his best friend's brother. And the way the reader can feel the scream of love caught in Jude's throat where his little brother is concerned. The author writes with such a subtle pen...never more so than when he paints the picture of Jude's feelings for his half-brother Keefer. Also, Jude's complicated relationship with his father. The longing in that relationship is so painful. With just a few strokes of his pen, Reid impeccably captured a struggling father/son relationship...with the perfect balance of want and need and outrage. I'm beginning to think the whole book was a highlight for me. Reid drew an amazingly accurate villain in Ray, Jude's stepfather, too. Here was a man who seemed afraid Jude's gayness might transfer to his own son simply through touch or proximity. Again, a flawless rendition of a character...and how Jude's mother repeatedly chose Ray over her own son was also amazingly captured.Yep...too many highlights to speak of.

Be careful what you read about this book. I've seen spoilers after having read it that would have ruined the ending for me. If you want to go into it blindly, try not to read up on it prior to cracking the spine. Even the author himself drops plot spoilers in interviews surrounding the origins of the story. Beware!

EXPECTATION:To be honest, the controversy surrounding this book was a big motivating factor in me deciding to read it. Firstly, it sounded like a wonderful story. Secondly, I have no time for writers who think it's their place to petition to have books stripped of awards they absolutely and definitively deserve. In fact, I was quite disgusted that anyone would try to rally and petition against this book. It met and exceeded my expectations. It has made me want to be a better writer. Naysayers should be ashamed of themselves. The green-eyed monster may have much to do with the bitter pills these petitioners are unable to swallow. I hope with everything I have that this book wins CANADA READS!

SIZE:5.5 It's just too big to fit into 5. Je Suis Jude!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

SOULSPARK Cover Reveal! Eliza Tilton's Newest Novel - Young Adult Contemporary Romance With a Promise to Rip Open Your Heart!

Today, I get to share another gorgeous cover with you! ELIZA TILTON is the author of the YA Fantasy series The Daath Chronicles, published by Curiosity Quills Press.

SOULSPARK is a young adult Contemporary Romance sure to rip open your heart and stitch it back together.

Here's the blurb:

Dealing with the loss of her mother, seventeen-year-old Jessica Stone tries to find an escape from the pain by secretly medicating herself with Xanax, but the anxiety increases, crushing her and her grades.

Then she meets Caleb Jonas, the pastor’s son at her mother’s church. Between his cute dimples and love of fast cars, Jessica is completely smitten, and the feeling is mutual. But dating a Christian boy isn’t easy. He doesn’t party, and he never goes past first base. Jessica struggles with his faith, since it makes her question her own, but for the first time since her mother’s death, she can breathe. Life is finally shifting into a state of happiness.

But that happiness shatters when Jessica catches Caleb kissing her ex-best friend—and step-brother’s girlfriend—Rachel, the girl who used to be like her sister, and the same girl who betrayed her once before.

While her stepbrother hints at a deeper connection between the two, Caleb insists it was a one-time mistake and begs forgiveness. With contradicting stories coming at her, Jessica isn’t sure who to believe, but sometimes the truth is better left undiscovered and she’s about to find out why.
Without further ado, the beautiful cover for SOULSPARK!

Soul Spark

Author pic 1


Eliza Tilton graduated from Dowling College with a BS in Visual Communications. When she’s not arguing with excel at her day job, or playing Dragon Age 2, again, she’s writing. Her stories hold a bit of the fantastical and there’s always a romance. She resides on Long Island with her husband, two kids and one very snuggly pit bull. Her YA Fantasy series, The Daath Chronicles, is published by Curiosity Quills Press.

Connect with the Author Across Social Media:

Twitter / Tumblr / Website / Pinterest / Facebook / Goodreads / Instagram


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES - By JENNIFER NIVEN - Best Book of 2015? Already? Maybe!



RELEASE DATE: January 6th, 2015

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: ebook/400 pages

PUBLISHER: Knopf Books for Young Readers



Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. (From GOODREADS)

EXPECTATION: The moment this book entered into my awareness, I knew I HAD to read it. I expected great and amazing things from it. I don't even know why I had that immediate reaction, I just did. I had not yet heard of Jennifer Niven. The book just entered my radar on Instagram and I pre-ordered it the moment I saw it.


"The great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody." ~ Theodore Finch

"Worthless. Stupid. These are words I grew up hearing. They're the words I try to outrun, because if I let them in, they might stay there and grow and fill me up and in, until the only thing left of me is worthless stupid worthless stupid worthless stupid freak. And then there's nothing to do but run harder and fill myself with other words: This time will be different. This time I will stay awake." ~ Theodore Finch

It is no mistake I waited a couple weeks to write this review. This was one of those books I had to continue to digest long after reading the last word. It was for me. Mine. I couldn't formulate the feelings I had for it while I was still having them.

It's also no mistake that TODAY is the day I'm posting this review. Today is BELL LET'S TALK DAY 2015. It's marketed as a day of NATIONAL CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH. To be honest, when this day first appeared it made me angry. I thought, 'why can't we talk about mental illness ALL 365 DAYS!?' For those dealing with mental health issues, they don't get to put those issues in their pocket for all the other days of the year. Their marginalization happens every day. But I think I get it now. Raising awareness on this day is a way to begin the conversation that will, hopefully, last all the days of the year.

Why do I bring this PSA up in the middle of a review for my favourite book of the year? Because Theodore Finch.

Jennifer Niven has written one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. I put this on my top books list alongside Franny & Zooey, Wonder Boys, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, The Fault in Our Stars, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the rest of my faves. It's simply brilliant. It's one of those books that took my breath away, and prevented me from catching it again until long after I finished the last page.

One of the reasons I can't really say much about the book is that I feel to talk about it would be to give away some of its secrets. I hate spoilers. If you're going to read this book, you should go into it blindly and allow yourself to excavate its gifts all on your own. What I can talk about is the way it made me feel, the beautiful prose, the expertly executed duo points of view. It was so pleasurable to read this story from both Theodore Finch's and Violet Markey's POV. Two wonderful characters fully realized on the page.

Their story? It opens with both of them standing on a sixth-story ledge. The circumstances that brought both characters together on that ledge could not be more opposing. Violet is a guilt-wracked survivor of a car accident that took the life of her older sister. Theodore? His story is slowly revealed throughout ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. But while the reader is up on the ledge of the bell tower in the courtyard of the high school the two attend, we get it. We fully get why Theodore is there. He's the tragedian of this masterpiece. He's the always-been-broken-can't-quite-figure-out-why fall guy that every single high school in North America (if not the world) has. Theodore Finch is suicidal because he's Theodore Finch.

The story begins not because Theodore is going to succeed in ending his life THIS TIME. It begins because he suddenly sees a reason not to end it. The popular Violet Markey is standing there, ready to jump to her death. Saving her, he doesn't even consider that it might somehow save himself. He is just capable of seeing the value of a life...when it is not his life he's seeing.

This is a tragedy. In YA, tragedies are extremely hard to pull off. But Niven does it. My god, does Niven do it. I'm still raw from reading this book, weeks after doing so. I want to tell all my friends and enemies about it. I want to buy them all copies, in case they don't take me serious when I tell them they need to read it. I want to sit them down and make them read it.

I won't say more about the story itself. I'll just say that it is beautiful. And I will say that THIS is a perfect book to begin dialogue on MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. Especially in the world of the young adult...where the scope of experience is too narrow for teenagers to realize the one most important possibility when dealing with the demons of mental health issues--- IT GETS BETTER.

I leave you with a couple more lines from the book which I highlighted because they felt like words that were ripped directly from my own teen soul. In other words, I related 100% to the character THEODORE FINCH, and the emotional tidal wave of conflict he experienced in his life.

"I can't love anyone because it's not fair to anyone who loves me." ~ Theodore Finch

"If I breathe too loudly, there's no telling what the darkness will do to me or to Violet or to anyone I love." ~ Theodore Finch

EXPECTATION: I intuited that this book would leave a lasting emotional impact on me. I just didn't know how profound it would be. It met my expectations in the first chapter. It exceeded them in the second. By the third, I was no longer reading...I was there.  I am Theodore Finch. Just as much as I'm not.

SIZE: I never gave a book a size 6 before. It seems silly, when the sizes are meant to represent stars and the highest is 5. I just can't be satisfied giving ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES a 5. And it's worthy of more than a 51/2. In This is Spinal Tap, they turn the amplifier up to 11. On this humble book review blog, for today anyway, I'm following their lead. I'm turning this one up to 6. Deal with it!

Afterword: Please discuss mental health issues and bring them into the light of all the bright places you see. Bring those suffering into the light with you. We need to embrace them, tell them they will be okay, tell them they are not alone. Mental illness is a real illness, like cancer and multiple sclerosis and diabetes. There is no shame in having a mental illness. It's time to stop marginalizing and segregating those who suffer. Join the conversation. TODAY---Wednesday, January 28th, 2015---the conversation is ongoing across all social media platforms. Find it at #BELLLETSTALK