Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (#20)

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event that's hosted by Breaking the Spine. It spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on...

Title The Hate U Give
Author Angie Thomas
Release Date February 28, 2017

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32075671-the-hate-u-give

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Share your links in the comments below and I'll be sure to drop by!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Book Review: Misery, Rancor, and Angst: Or, The Three Graces

Title Misery, Rancor, and Angst: Or, The Three Graces
Author Kirsten B. Feldman
Release Date November 21, 2016

"They both looked over at the clock and then back down at their books. Two hours until it was time."

This dark contemporary fairy tale follows the three Katsaros sisters in their quest to take back their lives from the darkness that has enveloped them. Using their talents for research, speed, and vision, Lala, Vero, and Gracie aim to outwit their scheming nemesis before they lose their inheritance.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32955592-misery-rancor-and-angst
Review

I really enjoy reading Kirsten's work (No Alligators in Sight and On the Way to Everywhere). Not only does she write characters that really come to life on the page, but she writes stories that capture my attention from the very beginning and keep me turning the page.

This book felt different than her other books that I've read, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. If the ending was a little longer and fleshed out, this would have been a five star read for me.

Rating

4 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from the author in exchange for an honest review. *

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review: Pearl

Title Pearl
Author Deirdre Riordan Hall
Release Date March 1, 2016

Run fast and run far, unless you’re fearless. Unless you’re courageous. I’m not, but I’d like to be.

Pearl Jaeger is seventeen and homeless after drugs, poverty, and addiction unraveled the life she shared with JJ, her formerly glamorous rock star mother.

This moment of happiness is fleeting; someone will take it from me.

When tragedy brings a chance to start over at an elite boarding school, she doesn’t hesitate. Yet the only salvation comes from an art teacher as troubled as Pearl, and she faces the stark reality that what she thought she wanted isn’t straightforward.

I trace the outline of my reflection in a window. I am no more than a replica of my mother. This is not the self-portrait I want to paint.

Through the friendships she forms at school—especially with Grant, a boy who shows Pearl what it means to trust and forgive—she begins to see a path not defined by her past. But when confronted with the decision to be courageous or to take the easy way forged by her mother’s failures, which direction will Pearl choose?
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26209338-pearl
Review

I really dig the author's writing style. There's something about it that really draws me in and wraps me up the in the story being told. Much like Sugar, Pearl is a raw and gritty story that proves life isn't perfect, but it's still worth living.

Pearl was a wonderful main character. She was flawed and battled with her own demons. I loved that through everything she was still someone we could root for. The struggles that she faced in the wake of her mother's addiction were realistically done and painted a true to life picture of how addiction affects everyone in an addict's life. Pearl's story is one worth reading.

I love character driven books and Pearl is definitely a favorite for this year.

Rating

5 out of 5 stars

Friday, November 11, 2016

Spotlight/Giveaway: The Homecoming

Title The Homecoming
Author Stacie Ramey
Release Date November 1, 2016
ISBN 9781492635888
Publishers Sourcebooks Fire

Forced to return to his estranged family, John discovers how hard it is to truly go home.

It’s been a year since John lost his girlfriend, Leah, to suicide. Living with his uncle keeps his mind from the tragedy and his screwed up family—until he gets into trouble and a judge sends him back home. With a neglectful mother and abusive brother, John’s homecoming is far from happy.

As he tries to navigate and repair the relationships he abandoned years ago, Emily, the girl next door, is the only bright spot. She’s sweet and smart and makes him think his heart may finally be healing. But tragedy isn’t far away, and John must soon face an impossible decision: save his family or save himself.
http://ow.ly/P4ic305DLaM

An Excerpt


Chapter 1
Standing on the high school’s lacrosse field in the town I never thought I’d go back to, I wait for my turn to do suicides. The sun blazes, and I take a drink from my water bottle and try not to chew myself out for landing here instead of getting to stay in Chicago with Uncle Dave. What would Leah think if she saw me now?
“Strickland!” Coach calls. “Line up.”
It’s not my turn to run again, and the unfairness starts a flame in my stomach, but I line up anyway. No way I’m gonna let Coach see he’s getting to me. Or let the team know how out of shape I really am.
“Get your legs up!” Coach Gibson screams, and I think he’s talking to me, but I can’t be sure, because six of us are racing, and I’m losing. Bad. Guess the last few years of smoking weed hasn’t helped my stamina.
Matt, a guy from my neighborhood who I used to play lacrosse with and one of two people Mom fought like hell to keep me away from, yells from the sidelines, “Wheels, Strickland, wheels.” But he laughs as he says it, and I know he’s just giving me shit.
I knew they’d go hard on me. Payback for moving away. For not playing lacrosse since fifth grade. For hanging with the druggies instead of the jocks. I’m one of the new guys on the team. An honor not usually given to seniors. So I’m treated to Hell Week like the freshmen and sophomores. I don’t mind. That’s just the way it is.
Coach Gibson points to me. “Just Strickland this time.”
Bodies collapse around me, and I hear their sighs of relief as I crouch in the ready position, sweat pouring off my chest and arms and legs while I wait for Coach’s whistle to launch me like a bullet from a gun. I run from the end line to goal line. Goal line to end line. End line to box line. Box line to half field.
“Push, push, push,” Coach yells.
I do what he says, push my body. Pump my legs. It sucks, but I do it, because with each stride, I feel my body taking over and my mind being left far behind. Maybe this time, Dad was right. Lacrosse is just what I need.
“Again.” Coach points to me. He clicks his stopwatch, and I race again. He shakes his head as he documents my time. Like I don’t know how bad I suck. Like I don’t get how much persuading Dad must have had to do to get me on the team. Thinking of Dad fires me up to tap into my beast. I bend over. Try not to puke. Take a drink of my water and hit the line to run again.
I don’t actually mind this part. Whenever I run full out, push my body past its limit, those are the times I’m not thinking of Leah.
“Again.” I run my route one more time, my body failing a little more with each step. When I’m sure I’m going to fall to the ground, I make myself think of Leah. How I was supposed to save her. How I didn’t. And that’s enough to propel me forward. At the end of the run, I bend over, spit on the ground.
The other seniors and juniors start their Indian drill. They jog by us freshies, run their rhythmic jogging and even breathing, reminding me that they are warriors, and I am not. Matt yells out, “Damn, Strickland.” Then laughs as I lose this battle and puke on the ground.
Brandon, another guy from the old team, joins in the hilarity. “We got a puker!”
I look at each exercise as a brick in some mythical wall I have to build before I can earn my walking papers. That makes it easier to face. One step. One drill. One minute. One hour. One week. One month. More than one year since my girlfriend Leah died. (Killed herself, I remind myself, careful to make the memory hurt as much as possible.)
Probably thirty minutes left in practice. Nine weeks till my first report card. Nine months of probation, ten months till I can graduate and move on with my life to California. The farthest place from my family I can go without getting a passport. Where I can cash in on my one and only talent: growing and selling weed. Legally there.
Finally, Coach calls us in. The juniors and seniors have already been sent to the locker room ahead of us, so he’s only addressing us wannabes. “You guys didn’t totally disappoint me today, so tomorrow, you can bring your sticks.”
Some of the guys pump their fists. I don’t even have the energy to do that.
“Now hit the showers and head home.”
I’m turning to leave when Coach calls me over. “Hey, John, I wanted to say I’m sorry about your brother. And your girl.”
The dragon roars. Flames engulf me. People just can’t let an accident like Ryan’s go, even after all these years. But Leah? That’s too much. They didn’t even know her. I don’t want to share her tragedy, her life, her memory with anyone.
“You’ve had some tough breaks for sure.”
Dad and his stupid mouth.
Coach shifts his stance, crosses his arms—his clipboard with all my times now clutched to his chest. Numbers that for sure say I’m not good enough to be on any lacrosse team—definitely not the varsity team at East Coast High. “I don’t want you to get discouraged. Coach Stallworth told me about you. Said you used to be a hell of an athlete. You can be again, I’m sure.”
His stare feels like he’s trying to figure out what I’m made of. I want to tell him not to waste his time. I’m happy to tell him exactly who I am. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t mind taking whatever physical punishment he wants to dish out. But when it comes to my emotions? Coach is going to have to understand that that shit’s off-limits. Emotions are for idiots. Feeling crap doesn’t change what happened. Good weed works so much better. Hell, even bad weed beats feeling any day.
I gulp more water. Spit on the ground. Look him square in the eye. “Thanks, Coach. That all?”
I guess Coach picks up on my noncommunicative status, because his eyes go back to his clipboard. “See you tomorrow.”
I give him a nod and jog to the locker room so Coach’ll see I’ve still got a little juice in me, even after everything.
***
Last one in the locker room also means last one out. I sit on the bench, lean over to close my locker as Matt and Brandon head for the parking lot.
“Later,” Matt throws over his shoulder, the er reverberating as the door shuts behind him.
Matt and I’ve got some history to get over. It was his big brother, Pete, who hit Ryan. Seven years later and that still hangs between us. Not that it was Pete’s fault exactly. When it comes to those things, fault hardly even matters. It’s called an accident for a reason.
Besides, Pete hasn’t exactly gotten off scot-free either. Some people might think becoming a high school dropout, working pizza delivery while feeding a major drug and drinking problem is not as bad as Ryan’s deal, but I say that nobody has a right to judge. I stayed in touch with Pete even after I moved away. Nobody understands that, but it was like he was the only one who got the nuclear fallout of that accident.
I’m stuffing my sweaty clothes into my bag and zipping it up when I hear my cell chirp. I grab it, hoping it’s one of Pete’s connections I reached out to today. Someone who can help me with my little sobriety problem.
But it’s not Pete’s connection. It’s Uncle Dave. Hey, just checking in. Hope you’re settling in OK.
I text back. Yeah. Fine.
How was practice?
Somehow, that kills me. That he’s still checking on me. Uncle Dave. Not Dad or Mom. Him. This warm spot inside me lights a little every time he calls or texts.
He texts again. When someone you love dies, it changes you. Remember that.
He means Leah for me. My perfect big brother for Mom.
After Ryan’s accident, Mom didn’t change so much as reduce, like the sauce that Uncle Dave made for my filet the last night I was living with him. He explained how a little fire under you can intensify whatever’s inside you. After the accident, Mom got more intense for sure. Driven. Focused only on Ryan. With me, I just got more angry. Just the way I am, I guess.
Uncle Dave always tries to turn simple moments into lessons. Not preachy ones, just different ways to look at life. His texts aren’t meant to pry or annoy, but I can’t help wishing he hadn’t. I screwed up the best living arrangement of my life, the one Dad said I needed after I told him about Leah. But I killed the whole deal by hanging with a bunch of thugs and acting like a punk.
There’s a mass of activity around me in the locker room that doesn’t include me. Kids banging fists. Giving each other shit. Nodding when the others ask if they’ve got a ride. Then it hits me: I’m completely ride-less.
The guys on the team have picked up on my not so subtle I want to be left alone signal. I know teammates are supposed to male bond or some shit like that, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to finish probation. Live according to Mom’s rules. Then get out and go away. And never come back.
I text Uncle Dave. I’m exactly the same jerk I used to be.
He texts. Nice try.
As the door bangs shut for the last time, I realize my being a selfish ass and ignoring everyone means I’ll have to walk home. Great work, Johnny. I almost laugh out loud at what an idiot I can be.
The phone chirps again. This time it’s Dad. Picked up your Jeep from the compound. Cost me a fortune. Show me you’ve earned it and I’ll bring it to you.
Always pushing. Uncle Dave is so much cooler than Dad is that it’s hard to believe they’re even brothers.
The door opens, and a janitor leans in. “You done?”
“Yeah. Sorry.” I look around the locker room one more time. I am completely alone, even on a team of thirty kids. Classic me.

Buy Links


Praise for The Homecoming

“The overall message of relying on family and friends for support is clear, and John’s pain and confusion are palpable… the male point of view distinguishes it in a field crowded with girls’ perspectives. VERDICT A solid addition to YA collections.”
School Library Journal

“This engaging story will appeal to all readers and will help troubled teens realize that there can be help out there for what’s going on in their lives.”
– School Library Connection

“A stirring close-up of a family haunted by emotional trauma.”
Kirkus

About the Author

Stacie Ramey attended the University of Florida where she majored in communication sciences and Penn State where she received a Master of Science degree in speech pathology. She lives in Wellington, Florida, with her husband, three children, and two rescue dogs. Visit www.stacieramey.com.

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Giveaway

Open to US & Canada residents only

Monday, November 7, 2016

Spotlight/Giveaway: Unnatural Deeds

Title Unnatural Deeds
Author Cyn Balog
Release Date November 1, 2016
ISBN 9781492635796
Publishers Sourcebooks Fire

Secrets. Obsession. Murder. Victoria is about to discover just how dangerous it can be to lose yourself.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, but she’s okay with that. All she needs is the company of her equally oddball boyfriend, Andrew, who is a musical prodigy, homeschooled, and agoraphobic. They’ve been neighbors and inseparable all their lives, and Vic doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

Until the day Zachary Zimmerman sits beside her in homeroom. Z, as he likes to be called, is magnetic, charming, and mysterious, and Vic is drawn to him in ways she doesn’t understand.

Despite Vic’s loyalty to Andrew, she finds her life entwining with Z’s. He’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery, and she becomes obsessed with figuring him out. Soon, she’s lying to everyone she knows—even Andrew—in an effort to unravel his secrets.

But Z’s not the only one with a past. Vic’s hiding secrets. Dark, horrible secrets. Secrets that will come back to haunt her…and destroy everything in her path.
http://ow.ly/GjrS305yyoM

An Excerpt


Foul whisp’rings are abroad. Unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1

CHAPTER 1

Duchess—­Police are investigating an apparent homicide after a body was found in a wooded area early Tuesday morning. Authorities have not yet released the name of the victim or the person(s) they are questioning in connection with the investigation.
—­Central Maine Express Times

Is this thing on?
Ha--ha, I’m a laugh a minute.
Anyway, Andrew. It’s me. Vic. I wanted to say I’m sorry. Sorry for… Well, where do I begin? I—-
Cough, cough, cough.
Sorry. I’m losing my voice. Something bitter is stuck in my throat, and the air is so cold it’s hard to breathe. This place reeks of decaying leaves, of the musty, damp rot of dead things returning to the earth.
There’s something soft and wet under my head. I hope it’s not brain matter. I can’t raise my arms to check because of the way I’m twisted here. I think my leg is broken. Or maybe my back? Damned if I can twitch a muscle without pain screaming its way up my spine.
Somehow I managed to pry my phone out of my jacket pocket and prop it on my chest, but you know how spotty service is around Duchess. All charged up with zero bars—-not that I’d be calling anyone but you. I wish I could see the background photo of you and me. It’d keep me company. You know the one. It’s the picture of us at the Renaissance Faire when we were fourteen. We’re both grinning like mad and you have your arm around me, claiming me as your own. It’s probably the only time you were ever comfortable with yourself. With us. I miss that.
Anyway, you know how glass half--empty I am, Andrew. I wanted to record a note for you on my phone. You know, in case I don’t get out of here.
Of course I’ll get out of here. I wouldn’t be lucky enough to die here. But maybe this’ll be easier than telling you in person.
Cough, cough.
Where should I start?
It’s so quiet. You must have left me, Andrew. But you’ll come back. You always come back. You were scared, maybe, when you saw what you’d done. And now I’m all alone here.
I don’t really know where “here” is. I think it’s a drainage ditch on the side of Route 11. The last thing I remember is rushing down the road near the Kissing Woods, feeling powerful. Immortal. Like everything I wanted could be mine. For an instant, I felt like he could be mine.
But that’s not possible now.
I know what people have said behind my back in hushed whispers. They call me delusional. But I’m not. I know what is real and what isn’t.
No, wait. The last thing I remember is you with that fierce look in your eyes. You sure surprised me. Who knew that my boyfriend, quiet, unassuming Andrew Quinn, had that in him?
I thought I knew you inside and out, but…I was wrong.
I guess I should explain. After all, I have no other pressing engagements. And you’re overdue an explanation, aren’t you? The tall pines can be my witnesses. They can pass judgment as they see fit.
I’m not sure when it all began, but Lady M said it best. Hell is goddamn murky.
Whoops. Blasphemy. Yet another sin to add to my act--of--contrition list.
Looking back, you knew when I started to change, didn’t you, Andrew? You know everything about me. It was that very first day of school, the day my life began and the day it began to unravel.
So here are the gory details. It won’t be enough, but I’ll try. You can’t know it all until you’ve smelled that intoxicating cinnamon--and--cloves scent, read those texts that elevated even the blandest words to poetry, and seen those heart--stoppingly blue eyes.
His eyes. Even now, I can see them with perfect clarity. I’ve seen them in my dreams, in the sky when the sun hits the clouds just right, and in my morning breakfast cereal. It all goes back to him. Every single thought always winds right back to him. Always. Always. Always.
It’s no use. I want him out of my head. I wish I could scrape him out of my memory. I don’t want to live with him etched in the deepest part of me. I don’t want to die thinking of him.
But I know I will.

Buy Links


Praise for Unnatural Deeds


“Vic’s psychological struggle culminates in an unpredictable, shocking ending that most readers will not see coming. This thriller will stay with readers long after the last page."
School Library Journal

“Like a PG-13 version of Gone Girl, Balog's latest tells the tense and tragic story of three teens mixed up in a world of murder, obsession, and mental illness… A page-turner that will keep readers riveted, this is a treat for mystery fans and will keep readers guessing right up until the end.”
Kirkus

“Unnatural Deeds is a compelling, dark confessional with pages that keeps you guessing and an ending that will blow you sideways.”
– Natalie D. Richards, author of Six Months Later and One Was Lost

About the Author

Cyn Balog is the author of a number of young adult paranormal novels. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at www.cynbalog.com.

Author Links

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Giveaway

Open to US & Canada Residents Only

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Book Review: In the Wake of Wanting

Title In the Wake of Wanting
Author Lori L. Otto
Release Date October 27, 2016

Even before the second semester of his sophomore year at Columbia began, Trey Holland knew his life would be completely different by the end of it. He had yet to meet the pretty–yet flustered–freshman who he’d be mentoring on the school paper. He had yet to discover the despicable secrets his new best friend was hiding.

All Trey knew at the time was that the relationship with his high school sweetheart was nearing its end.

In those days before the spring semester began, life for Trey was simple. School was a place to learn. His fraternity was a community of like-minded brothers. Life was full of well-intentioned people. Complications were tiny bumps in the road, easily smoothed over, leaving no trace behind.

In a matter of weeks, Trey is thrust into a jaded reality brought on by choices he makes and by the vile actions of those around him. It won’t take long for him to look back and see the wreckage left in the wake of wanting.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Portions of this book deal with the sensitive subject of rape and sexual abuse. While the incidents are not 'experienced' first hand, they are retold in hindsight by characters. The descriptions of the events are brief, and while they are not graphic, they may be considered disturbing to some.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31366501-in-the-wake-of-wanting
Review

I love Lori L. Otto's books. She's seriously one of my favorite authors. She writes about family and friends. She writes about love, loyalty, and passion. Her books are realistic and relevant. These are the kinds of stories of love and life that I adore reading.

In the Wake of Wanting is all that I love from Lori and more. As per the author's note, it contains material pertaining to the sensitive subjects of rape and sexual abuse. Inspired by real life events, Lori handles the story line with delicacy and finesse. I don't think anyone else could have done a better job at telling a story such as this.

To those that have read other books by Lori will see plenty of familiar faces as all of her books are spin offs of the Emi Lost and Found series. To those that haven't read anything else by her, I certainly recommend her work. Whether it's starting with In the Wake of Wanting or going back to the Emi Lost and Found series, you won't be disappointed.

In the Wake of Wanting is a story of love and loyalty. It's a timely story of surviving and standing up for yourself. It's one of my favorites of 2016. You don't want to miss it.

Rating

5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (#19)

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event that's hosted by Breaking the Spine. It spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on...

Title Infini
Author Krista & Becca Ritchie
Release Date January 2017

Some love is infinite

"Don’t have a best friend that’s a girl" — this was the advice from my older cousin. I didn’t take it. Because he followed with, "friends don’t f*ck friends. And you’ll want to f*ck her."

It was terrible advice.

My cousin should’ve told me that being best friends with Baylee Wright — since she was twelve — would be the best and worst decision of my life.

He should have told me to protect her from what was coming.

He should have told me that when a darkness crawled towards us, there’d be no safety net.

Now I’ve signed back on to the same Vegas acrobatic show as Baylee, working together for the first time in years. And she tells me that she’s having trouble in a certain “area” of her life — because of our past.

“You can help me fix it,” she says.

And then she hands me a list.

Standalone New Adult Romance - Recommended for readers 18+ for mature content.

Luka Kotova is introduced in Amour Amour, and Infini takes place in the same acrobatic world. However, it's not necessary to read Amour Amour prior to Infini
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25510924-infini

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Share your links in the comments below and I'll be sure to drop by!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Book Review: Unnatural Deeds

Title Unnatural Deeds
Author Cyn Balog
Release Date November 1, 2016

Secrets. Obsession. Murder. Victoria is about to discover just how dangerous it can be to lose yourself.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, but she’s okay with that. All she needs is the company of her equally oddball boyfriend, Andrew. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks…until magnetic, charming, mysterious Z comes into her life, and she starts lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel his secrets.

And then something terrible happens. Someone is dead and it’s time for Victoria to come clean. Interspersed with news clippings and police interviews, Victoria tells her story to Andrew, revealing her dark, horrible secrets…secrets that have finally come back to haunt her.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28755323-unnatural-deeds
Review

Before I read this book, I read a few Goodreads reviews. It left me feeling a bit nervous about whether or not I'd actually enjoy this book. I may be in the minority here (or maybe not, it's too soon to tell at the writing of this review), but I ended up enjoying this book.

For the majority of the book, I was positive that I had the ending figured out. I would have bet serious money on it. I was sucked into the story, turning page after page, just knowing that I was right. Of course, I totally would have lost any bets because HOLY TWIST ENDING, BATMAN! Seriously, I was completely caught off guard. Loved it.

Don't let the negative reviews deter you from reading Unnatural Deeds. It's certainly not a perfect book by any means, but it's worth a read.

Rating

4 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *