Review: Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Pub. Date: First published, June 12th 2012; Paperback pub. June 4th, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
272 pages

I expected Between You and Me to be a fairly light, summer beach read. It’s not. While there is some humor, the novel and the characters in the novel are not happy. This is a heart wrenching, haunting story that I found powerful and engrossing.

Growing up, cousins Kelsey and Logan Wade were thick as thieves. Fifteen years later, Logan has done the adult thing. Done with college and stuck in an uninspiring job, she’s bored. The last thing Logan expects on her 27th birthday is a call from Kelsey’s mom asking her to LA to visit the recently dumped, and now uber famous, Kelsey. Dropping everything, Logan’s curiosity and need to get out of her tedium, sets an entire train of events in motion. With Logan by her side, Kelsey takes control of her life and career, going for what she wants, and doing what she wants, for the first time. But, when her choices send her life spiraling out of control, the girls have to stick together, or allow Kelsey’s parents to tear them apart, again.

Kelsey Wade is more exposed than a Kardashian. Add in an eventual meltdown and the worst mom/dadager in the world, Between You and Me makes you feel like you’re watching an episode of

Review: Finding It (Losing It #3) by Cora Carmack

Pub. Date: October 15th, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
320 pages

My love for Cora Carmack’s books is almost annoying. I have yet to take more than a day to finish one of her novels because the characters are just so lovely and real, her writing style is so addictive, and I truthfully just cannot wait for the happy endings.

Jetting off to Europe after graduation, Kelsey wants to find experiences. She needs something that will shake things up and make her feel something real. But, after barhopping and adventure seeking all over Europe, loneliness sinks in, and Kelsey is no closer to finding something real than she was before her trip. It’s only when ex-Army Jackson Hunt walks into her life, pointing out that she can’t expect to have new experiences when every night is the same party in a different place, that Kelsey’s adventure really starts. In Italy, Kelsey and Hunt spend every waking minute together. But, she has to learn the hard way that sometimes, before you can appreciate any new, great experiences, you have learn how to handle your bad ones. 

I don’t know if it was the exotic settings, or the fact that I ultimately related to Kelsey so much more than I have to any of the previous Losing It characters, but Finding It is my favorite Carmack novel to

Review: Witchstruck (The Tudor Witch Trilogy) by Victoria Lamb

Pub. Date: September 24th, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
320 pages

I’m a huge Historical Fiction lover, which makes me very aware of how easy it is to be disappointed in the historical side of Historical Fiction. Thankfully, Witchstruck doesn’t disappoint.

Not every sixteen-year old has figured out that thing that makes them special. But, not every sixteen-year old is a descendant from a long line of witches. In Tudor England, there is an inherent distrust in anything different. Being a maid to the supernaturally interested Princess Elizabeth, offers Meg a small amount of protection, but trying to stay faithful to her families’ history, while trying to stay alive, is a constant juggle. When the stakes start getting too high for Meg to handle everything on her own, she has to figure out if she can trust anyone but Elizabeth with her secret, but risks fatal consequences if she puts her trust in the wrong place. 

My favorite part of the novel is the dynamic between polar opposites Meg and Alejandro – a Catholic Priest in training sent to convert Elizabeth by her sister Queen Mary. Both characters are unique, 

Review: The Truth About You & Me by Amanda Grace

Pub. Date: September 8th, 2013
Publisher: Flux
229 pages

From the first page of The Truth About You & Me you make assumptions. Freshman college class – must be 18; Biology – must be fairly smart. As readers we play into exactly the kind of assumptions Bennett – her Biology instructor – would make when Madelyn walks into his classroom. But Maddie is 16, and she makes some really stupid decisions. Brought together by their mutual love for hiking, Madelyn’s classroom crush is not rejected by Bennett like you would expect, but encouraged. Written as an apology and explanation to Bennett through a letter, The Truth About You & Me tells Madelyn’s version of the relationship and it is only as truthful and honest as you believe a character that knowingly deceives someone she claims she loves, for months.

I truly expected that Madelyn would learn a heck of a lot after everything she puts Bennett through. But with the majority of the novel being comprised of a single letter, written almost immediately after the foreseeable end to the doomed relationship, we get very little perspective after the fact. I wanted more growth, and I wanted Madelyn to redeem herself in some way. Instead we get a Madelyn reeling over a lost relationship, justifying her actions. While it’s clear that Madelyn is sorry she hurt Bennett, it’s not clear if she learned a single thing from the experience, and I strongly disliked her for it. I felt extremely sorry for Bennett. He did knowing spend a lot of time with a student, and planned a relationship with her after he was no longer her teacher, but he was kept in the dark about her real age and I felt incensed for him. Bennett comes off as genuine and as likeable as a teacher who has a relationship with a student can be, which made my dislike for Madelyn stronger.

Review: A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison

Pub. Date: September 1st, 2013
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group/ Carolrhoda Lab
320 pages

With sweeping lyricism and expertly woven beauty amongst its tragedy, as a modern retelling from Ophelia’s perspective, A Wounded Name more than does justice to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Since her mother’s death, Ophelia has been considered mildly crazy. With the ability to see ghosts and hear the music of the bean sidhe, even the pills that her father all but forces down her throat, can’t make Ophelia ‘normal’. When Elsinore Academy’s Headmaster dies, everyone is shaken, but no one so much as his son, Dane Hamlet. Dane - devastated by the loss, and furious with the rest of his family - begins to possessively depend and lean on Ophelia. Left with meeting Dane’s needs, her father’s standards, and keeping a promise to her dead mother, Ophelia becomes impervious to her own needs, and suffers greatly for it. When Hamlet starts to act more and more deranged, no one is safe from his wrath, especially not Ophelia.

Though A Wounded Name modernizes Hamlet’s world, the play’s original flow and lyricism is expertly maintained. If a reader were unfamiliar with the play, the creatively interwoven original passages would seem like Hutchison’s words, but for those who know, they are little treats dropped in every once in a while. I was personally not a big fan of Hamlet being reduced from Prince, to son of a school Headmaster, but the majority of the other modernizations worked very well, and I believe they made the story much more accessible and relatable for readers.

Review: Unspoken (Woodlands #2) by Jen Frederick

Pub. Date: September 16th 2013
Publisher: Pear Tree LLC/ Jen Frederick
260 pages
Paperback/ ebook

Having read a fair amount of New Adult lately, I’m finding that there's a bit more ‘rough’ than diamonds in the rough out there. Unspoken is definitely a diamond – but a diamond that needs just a little more polishing until it reaches perfection.

Bo is not your typically college student. At 23 he’s already been a Marine stationed in Afghanistan, and carries more baggage than a sorority house sees on moving day. AnnaMarie, AM for short, carries just as much baggage after a series of rumors involving ‘‘extracurricular activities’’ with the entire Lacrosse team were falsely spread. The only two non-freshman in Biology class, Bo slyly groups the two together. Under the guise of schoolwork, Bo and AM spend increasing amounts of time together, showing the other who they really are beneath the baggage and rumors that they have been brandished with. 

I appreciate NA without Insta-love immensely. Insta-love is so unrealistic and I typically lose interest the second it is introduced. Frederick really proved to the reader the relationship between Bo and AM, and why the two characters connected, long before they actually became a couple. As a reader you had to work towards the Happily Ever After, it wasn’t just handed to you, so you appreciated it that much more. I especially appreciated that once the two are together, they’re together. There is very little of the ‘what is going to break them up before they’re eventually brought back together’ drama. Bo and AMs relationship felt much more true and realistic to real life than most NA relationship do for me.

Review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Pub. Date: October 1st, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
389 pages

How to Love took me on an emotional rollercoaster ride. I was angered, inspired, annoyed, and overjoyed throughout the reading process because of how relatable Reena’s character is, and because of how realistically her situation is represented.  

With a 4.0, the chance to graduate high school after only three years, a close family with supremely strong religious beliefs, and general anti-social tendencies, Reena is not a teen you would expect to end up pregnant at 16. But she does. How To Love tells Reena’s story ‘Before’ the birth of her daughter Hannah, and ‘After’. Everything that ‘Before’ Reena experiences – from the destruction of a significant friendship, to her budding relationship with long-time crush Sawyer, until the moment she finds out she is pregnant – makes you feel like you're waiting to be propelled into the middle of an intersection, knowing the car speeding up behind you has no chance of stopping before impact. You know something serious and potentially horrible is about to happen, but you're powerless to stop it.

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Review: Skin by Donna Jo Napoli

Pub. Date: August 6th, 2013
Publisher: Skyscrape/Amazon Pub.
341 pages

First days of school are always stressful – but waking up to find your lips are white for no apparent reason, blows Sep’s stress levels through the roof. Diagnosed with Vitiligo, a skin pigmentation disorder, Sep starts counting down the time she has before white spots sprout up all over her body, brandishing her as a “freak”. Never the one to be worried about being in a relationship, or being in love, Sep questions if she’ll ever have the chance to experience these things once her appearance starts to change. Changing who she is, using whomever in her quest to experience as much as possible while she still looks “normal”, Sep’s grasp of herself both physically and emotionally, crashes. Before she completely loses herself, Sep needs to learn how she can be comfortable in her own skin – no matter what that skin looks like.

I really and truly felt for Sep. Not knowing what was going on with her body and the fear that goes along with that, I found really effectively portrayed. I thought the focus on Vitiligo, which affects your appearance versus your health, was an interesting twist on novels that center on illness. So much of the struggle that Sep faces is being able to look in the mirror no matter what reflection is staring back at her, and learning to love herself anyway. I felt her apocalyptic thinking that her life would shatter

Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Pub. Date: September 3rd, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
368 pages

This review has taken me a very long time to write. First, because I loved this novel so much that I couldn't properly express my love without just being gushy, and second because I’ve tried to remain as spoiler free as possible. Here goes.

If you could go back and change one moment, what would it be? Would you stop the car accident that killed your parents; would you make your best friend go to the doctor when they first started complaining that they weren’t feeling well; would you kiss the person you always wanted to kiss, no matter the consequences? When the ability to travel through time is discovered, the reasoning was full of good intentions – prevent wars, save lives, do good. But four years later, ego and avarice have taken over. What if you were to discover the one moment you needed to change was the moment someone makes one of the greatest scientific discoveries? And what if the only way to stop the discovery, is to kill the discoverer?

Review: Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi

Pub. Date: August 27th, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
432 pages

Every once in a while I get the urge to read a pure love story. That is what I expected Love Overdue to be – a love story. And don’t get me wrong it is - but it’s not only a romance love story, it’s also a love story about a town.

Hired as the new Librarian in small-town Verdant Kansas, from her clothes to her tightly wound bun, DJ Jarrow is intent on living up to the Librarian stereotype. Her strict control stems from one moment of humiliation as a teenager when she allowed herself to just let go. Eight years later, DJ is faced with a different type of humiliation – small town gossip. Worst of all, rumors start spreading that DJ was really hired because the head of the library board was hoping for a bit of matchmaking between DJ and her son Scott. Much to DJs dismay, the son – Scott Sanderson, happens to be the source of her humiliation years before. Waiting for the day Scott is able to figure out why she seems so familiar, DJ actually starts getting to know the adult Scott, and she’s forced to question if the Scott she built up in her head, reflects the real Scott. Intent on building a life in Verdant, DJ has to get past the past, and learn to live her present and her future for more than just her job.  

Review: Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek

Pub. Date: September 1st, 2013
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
311 pages

I always try my best to remain spoiler free in my reviews – but this is one of the rare times that I will not be able to review without discussing some major plot points. If you want to remain spoiler free I suggest you skip this one!

When the school board changes zoning areas, Reyna Fey has to start freshman year at a different school than her three best friends. Hoping to not spend everyday completely alone, Reyna’s open to making friends, but sharp tongued, tell it like it is Olive Barton, wasn’t the kind she was expecting. Brought together first out of loneliness, Reyna slowly begins to consider Olive a real friend. But, everything changes when Olive comes out to Reyna, and Reyna responds in the most hurtful, painful way possible. Unaware how severely she has hurt Olive, Reyna submerges herself in a new relationship, and a new group of friends, abandoning Olive when she needs her the most. As the girls become more hostile than friendly, Reyna is forced to learn how one person’s actions and words can forever alter someone else’s life.