Thursday, March 30, 2017

Book Review: It Happens All the Time

Title It Happens All the Time
Author Amy Hatvany
Release Date March 28, 2017

From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times betselling author)—comes a provocative and compelling novel about two friends whose lives are changed by a drunken kiss.

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

This is, without a doubt, my favorite book by Amy Hatvany.

It Happens All the Time is a fantastically written book. It was written was such a raw and emotional honesty that's exactly what this kind of book needs. I think it's so important that the story was told from both Amber's and Tyler's points of view. In seeing the story from both of their perspectives, we see each of their struggles and how they dealt with the aftermath of what happened that night. As Amy says in the beginning of the book: "I wasn’t trying to create false empathy for rapists; rather, I wanted to help readers recognize rape culture as not just a woman’s problem but as a societal problem, and one that we each have a hand (and a stake) in solving." Our society focuses so much on teaching girls and women what to do (or not to do) to avoid getting sexually assaulted, and while that's helpful, perhaps we need to take time to teach our boys/men how to identify consent.

To say that this book is a must-read is an understatement. Please, read it.


5 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Atria Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Book Review: 10 Things I Can See from Here

Title 10 Things I Can See from Here
Author Carrie Mac
Release Date February 28, 2017

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

This is a tough one for me to review/rate. Let me break it down a little.

Maeve has severe anxiety. The way her anxiety was portrayed was crazy accurate. This was both a positive and a negative. On one hand, seeing anxiety that realistic was astounding. I was seriously impressed. On the other hand, that kind of realism can be difficult to read. This is coming with someone that understands what it's like to have anxiety. It's exhausting. Reading about it, page after page after page, with that kind of intensity is almost too rough to get through.

Moving on to Maeve's parents... Good lord, these are some incredibly selfish people. It's so obvious that Maeve is struggling more than the average person. Her parents seem to be well informed, but medication? Nah. Let's let her struggle and be miserable. They've got other things to worry about. So frustrating. Luckily, though, we do see a relationship with a parental figure that's pretty healthy with Maeve's stepmother, Claire. I did enjoy that.

As far as the love interest goes, eh. There was too much insta-love going on for my tastes. Not to mention, Salix seemed like a very one dimensional character. Their relationship sort of fell flat for me. While their relationship didn't cure Maeve's anxiety, it did seem to lessen in a way that I've found predictable in books. Relationships aren't a cure for anxiety and this was disappointing.

Overall, I felt like 10 Things I Can See from Here was just too busy. There's a lot going on for Maeve and it felt rather messy. There's her anxiety, her selfish parents, her relationship with a new girl, her failing friendship with her best friend. Yeah, life is messy like this sometimes, but it didn't work as a book for me.


2 out of 5 stars

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: The Otto Digmore Difference

Title The Otto Digmore Difference
Author Brent Hartinger
Release Date February 21, 2017

“Road trip!”

Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success.

Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.

It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie.

There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend.

Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?

Author Brent Hartinger first introduced the character of Otto Digmore in 2005, in his Lambda Award-winning books about Russel Middlebrook. Back then, Otto was something pretty unusual for YA literature: a disabled gay character.

Now, more than a decade later, Otto is grown up and finally stepping into the spotlight on his own. The Otto Digmore Difference, the first book in a new stand-alone series featuring Otto, is about much more than the challenges of being “different.” It’s also about the unexpected nature of all of life’s journeys, and the heavy price that must be paid for Hollywood fame.

But more than anything, it’s a different kind of love story, about the frustrating and fantastic power of the love between two friends.

This is my first book by Brent Hartinger, so it's also my first book with Otto. I am definitely interested in reading more of Otto's series, though.

The Otto Digmore Difference really kept my attention throughout the entire book. While it's a shorter book than what I normally read, it didn't feel that way. Not to say that it felt overly long, because it didn't, but it was really perfect. It kept my attention, it was interesting, and a fully fleshed out story.

The only thing that felt a bit off (for lack of a better word) was the characters felt a bit younger than their age. I'm not sure if this is carried over from the Russel Middlebrook series as I haven't read it. Either way, though, it's not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book.

I'm so glad that I was contacted to read this book because it's not necessarily something that I would pick up on my own (which is a shame because I would be really missing out).


4 out of 5 stars

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Review: Ultimatum

Title Ultimatum
Author K. M. Walton
Release Date March 7, 2017

From the author of Cracked and Empty comes a gripping, emotional story of two brothers who must make the ultimate decision about what’s more important: family or their differences.

It’s not Oscar’s fault he’s misunderstood. Ever since his mother died, he’s been disrespected by his father and bullied by his self-absorbed older brother, so he withdraws from his fractured family, seeking refuge in his art.

Vance wishes his younger brother would just loosen up and be cool. It was hard enough to deal with their mother’s death without Oscar getting all emotional. At least when Vance pushes himself in lacrosse and parties, he feels alive.

But when their father’s alcoholism sends him into liver failure, the two brothers must come face-to-face with their demons--and each other--if they are going to survive a very uncertain future.

I think the way the story was told was brilliant. You've got two different points of views telling two different parts of the story. Oscar leads us through present day events and Vance taking us from the past to the present. They work in perfect harmony, painting a full picture of what's happening to the brothers and how they got there.

Ultimatum tugs at your heartstrings throughout the entire book. Oscar and Vance are going through an incredibly difficult time, but the author doesn't sugarcoat it. The emotion feels real and believable.

Ultimatum is a heartbreaking story about grief and finding hope where you least expect it.


5 out of 5 stars

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Review: We Were Here

Title We Were Here
Series Modern Love Story, book 1
Author Daisy Prescott
Release Date February 22, 2016

In the 90s …

texting involved paper and a pen …

… our selfies were Polaroids ...

… our favorite music was on mix tapes.

Sex was dangerous, music was raw, and falling in love felt nostalgic.

We were friends and lovers.

We thought we knew everything.

We knew nothing.

We were here.

Set in the early 1990s, a time before the internet, social media, and smart phones, We Were Here is the prequel to Geoducks Are For Lovers. This book can be read as a standalone.

I want to point out that this book is a prequel. Yes, it says it right there in the blurb, but I felt the need to say it again. I went into this knowing it was a prequel, but I didn't really know what it meant for this book. In We Were Here we're basically treated to seven novellas in one book. Each section focuses on one of the main characters in the story. It seems the other books in the series are also standalone books, but focus more on a single character (though I'm not 100% sure as I haven't read any of the others yet). Again, I just wanted to point all of this out as I didn't realize that's what was going on before I picked up this book. Anyway...

Some of the characters captured my attention more so than others. All of them were interesting, but it seemed like a few of the characters really stood out (Maggie, Quinn, Selah, and Lizzy). This book was such a tease in that regard, get me interested in a character's story before moving on to the next one.

At the current moment, I'm definitely interested in reading Geoducks Are for Lovers. Maggie's story is one that I'm really interested in. As for the other books, maybe. I enjoyed Daisy's writing enough to at least consider reading the other books.


4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spotlight/Giveaway: Ultimatum

Title Ultimatum
Author K. M. Walton
Release Date March 7, 2017
ISBN 9781492635079
Publishers Sourcebooks Fire

From the author of Cracked and Empty comes a gripping, emotional story of two brothers who must make the ultimate decision about what’s more important: family or their differences.

It’s not Oscar’s fault he’s misunderstood. Ever since his mother died, he’s been disrespected by his father and bullied by his self-absorbed older brother, so he withdraws from his fractured family, seeking refuge in his art.

Vance wishes his younger brother would just loosen up and be cool. It was hard enough to deal with their mother’s death without Oscar getting all emotional. At least when Vance pushes himself in lacrosse and parties, he feels alive.

But when their father’s alcoholism sends him into liver failure, the two brothers must come face-to-face with their demons--and each other--if they are going to survive a very uncertain future.

An Excerpt

I watch the nurse jab the needle into my father’s arm. He doesn’t make a move. He hasn’t made a move on his own in days. I look over at my brother, Vance, and his head is down, lost in his phone. I close my eyes and just focus on breathing.

I feel a gentle squeeze on my shoulder. “That should make him comfortable, Oscar. I’ll be right out in the hall if you need me,” the nurse says.

Vance told me that since Dad had this thing called a living will with a do-not-resuscitate order, there are no IVs or breathing tubes or anything else that will help to keep him alive longer. His liver is in failure, and he doesn’t have time to wait for a transplant. He will not be coming home from this place.

I nod. “Thank you,” I say to the nurse. Why can’t my brother put down his phone and be present?

“How long now?” I whisper. I read her name tag: Barbara.

She purses her lips into a tight smile. “I wish I could tell you. Definitely not today.”

“Tomorrow?” This is the end of day two here at the hospice, and I’ve been told multiple times that he’s not in pain, that they’re doing everything they can to make him comfortable. But I’m not convinced. How do they know he’s not in pain?

Barbara tilts her head and looks back at my comatose father. “Maybe, maybe not. He’ll leave when he’s ready.”

I want to jump up and shake her. She’s a damn hospice nurse! How can she not know? I want her to know.

I want her to tell me when he will die.

Sitting here watching him fail like this, so close, is harder than watching him live. I want it to just be over. I’m done.

“How many times does she have to tell you that she doesn’t know?” Vance asks after she leaves.
I turn away and ignore my brother.

“I know you hear me,” Vance says.

I lift my eyes and stare into his. To annoy him, I put in my earbuds and turn up the volume as loud as my phone allows. He shakes his head, indicating that he can hear the Mozart. Good.

My head fills with the layered richness of Symphony No. 29, and I let my eyes slide closed. While I’m into everything from baroque to classical to romantic, Mozart has always been my favorite. When I listen to his music, I’m taken out of my life.

My life right now consists of being trapped in this damn room with my brother and watching my father slip away one labored breath at a time. If I count the freckles on Dad’s arm one more time, I may start drooling.

I steal a peek at Vance, and he’s still glaring at me. When isn’t he? Having Mozart drown out him and his never-ending dickhead ways is helping right now. I turn and gaze out the window.

Vance has never understood me—and he never will. Even down to the music I listen to. When we were in middle school, he’d make fun of me because of it. I can still see him playing an imaginary violin with wild, insulting movements, doing everything in his power to look weird.

Were Vance and I ever close? I blink and realize the answer. No, we’ve never been close—despite only being ten months apart.

I scroll back as far as I can remember, and my hands tighten into fists.

I think it’s the classic “he took my place as the baby” situation. Vance resents me—like, my very existence. He couldn’t be any more unbrotherly. In fact, I’d say he stands firmly behind enemy lines. Let’s just say that if I needed saving on the battlefield, Vance would probably let me bleed out.

My brother is an attention junkie, and apparently I robbed him of having our parents’ complete and undivided focus. He has never verbalized this to me, of course—that would involve a deep conversation between us. This is all pure guesswork on my part. But I know I’m right.

Buy Links


About the Author

K.M. Walton is the author of Cracked and Empty. As a former middle-school teacher, she’s passionate about ending bullying, and her powerful presentations have made an impact on thousands. K.M. is a graduate of West Chester University. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, and cat. Visit her at

Author Links



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (#24)

"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 Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Series To All the Boys I've Loved Before, book 3
Author Jenny Han
Release Date May 2, 2017

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Book Review: The Martian

Title The Martian
Author Andy Weir
Release Date February 11, 2014

A mission to Mars.

A freak accident.

One man's struggle to survive.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars' surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark's not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

Before reading The Martian: Really? A book about a dude trapped on Mars... why would anyone want to read that? How did that get made into a movie anyway?

After reading The Martian: This book was totally awesome. No wonder it was made into a movie.

The Martian is a fantastic book! I'm so mad at myself for waiting so long to read it. I want to un-read it just so I can read it all over again. That's really how good it is. No joking whatsoever.

A survival story filled with humor, The Martian was pretty much a perfect sci-fi book for me. As someone that only dabbles in science fiction reading, I was worried this was going to be boring. Nope. Completely the opposite. I was captivated and immersed the the story from the very beginning.

There's tons of reviews out there for this book. There's probably just as many for the movie. I just wanted to throw my two cents into the mix. Read this book! It's so deserving of all the hype and love it gets.


5 out of 5 stars