Friday, July 31, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond

This is a book review for Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date is August 11, 2015.

A story about first love, first fights, and finding yourself in a messed up world, from the acclaimed author of Happyface. Walter Wilcox has never been in love. That is, until he meets Naomi, and sparks, and clever jokes, fly. But when his cop dad is caught in a racial profiling scandal, Walter and Naomi, who is African American, are called out at school, home, and online. Can their bond (and mutual love of the Foo Fighters) keep them together? With black-and-white illustrations throughout and a heartfelt, humorous voice, Bright Lights, Dark Nights authentically captures just how tough first love can be...and why it's worth fighting for.

First things first, let's talk about that cover. Isn't it gorgeous?? Yeah, I have much cover love for this one. Now for the main characters: I loved the relationship between Walter and Naomi. Finally there was a realistic teenage relationship. Yes, they wanted to spend every second together, but that is true for most new relationships. But there was no talk of marriage or babies or spending the rest of their lives together. Yay! I also loved the banter between the two of them. I wish I could come up with snappy one liners the way they can. Then again . . . I don't have someone writing my dialogue. Ha. 

This book had a lot of controversial topics in this book, but I feel it was handled in a very realistic way. The whole book was told from Walter's POV, so no one really knows what happened between Walter's dad and the suspect. No one that is, except Walter's dad and the suspect. At first, it seems like everything is on the up and up. It's one of those small events that snowballs into a huge media firestorm and suddenly it's viral. When everyone finds out that Walter is dating Naomi, some people even think he is doing it as a method of damage control for his dad to prove his dad isn't a racist. One of the main parts of this book that I appreciated was all the attention to social media. As much as it sucks, things like this are tried in the court of public opinion. Walter and his dad both get caught up in all the comments on Facebook. Judging by the comments, everyone was either anti cop or racist. It seemed obvious that the truth of what happened was somewhere in between. Walter is forced to confront the fact that racism does exist in his community when he starts dating Naomi. People shouldn't be bothered by a white person dating a black person in this day and age, but the truth of the matter is that some people are. And in this book, the people against this relationship weren't all white. Naomi does say make a great point when she tells Walter that racism regarding their relationship won't disappear when the scandal does. And she says it best when she says there are certain things Walter will never be able to understand because he is white.

What I did like about this book was that it forced the reader to look at both sides of the situation, but it did this without being overly preachy. What I didn't really care for was that we only saw one POV (Walter's). I would have loved to hear Naomi's POV. She was so vibrant and had so much to say. I would have loved to hear what she was thinking throughout all of this. Here's something else I didn't like: the character of Jason, Walter's friend and Naomi's brother. He was so angry that Walter broke the bro-code rule of not going out with Naomi unless Jason gave the okay. He kind of treated Naomi like she wasn't even a person at times. He also made it seem like Walter should get down on his hands and knees and beg for Jason's approval and Naomi's feelings had nothing to do with it. Annoying.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Borrow this one. It is worth reading, but I am not sure I would want to spend my money on it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: You And Me And Him by Kris Dinnison

This is a book review for You And Me And Him by Kris Dinnison. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is August 6, 2015. 

Maggie and Nash are outsiders. She’s overweight. He’s out of the closet. The best of friends, they have seen each other through thick and thin, but when Tom moves to town at the start of the school year, they have something unexpected in common: feelings for the same guy. This warm, witty novel—with a clear, true voice and a clever soundtrack of musical references—sings a song of love and forgiveness.

I am not usually a big fan of love triangles in books. Actually, I kind of hate them. But this one had me intrigued: a love triangle where a girl and a guy both like the same boy. That is so different from anything I have read. At first, the character of Maggie kind of annoyed me. She is fat. She knows she is fat. The problem with this is that she kept blowing off the idea that any guy could possibly like her because of her weight. The whole "I hate myself" thing was annoying but then I realized how much of myself I saw in her. As a teenager, I constantly put down my body and had such low self esteem (FYI, that hasn't changed a whole lot since I became an adult). Maggie and her best friend Nash are considered "outsiders." I kind of got why Maggie saw herself as one. She is overweight and really doesn't fit in with the popular girls. But I never got why Nash was considered an outsider. Yes, he is gay but a great part of the book is that it really wasn't treated as a big deal. The kids who would typically bully Nash for being gay stopped bullying him, mainly because he actually fought back. So none of the kids really gave him grief for it.

The love triangle started out fairly innocently enough. A new guy comes into town and Nash calls "dibs" so Maggie considers him off limits. Now, let's try to forget about how insulting it is to call dibs on a person. Obviously, Nash really can't "have" him unless he's gay. But Maggie is a loyal friend, almost to a fault actually. Nash is really overbearing and got on my nerves for most of the book. He got mad at Maggie for everything and Maggie just kind of took it. She apologized for things that she had no business apologizing for. I can appreciate that Maggie had a lot of loyalty to Nash, but there were times where I wanted to shake her and make her stand up for herself with him. 

So Maggie and Nash both become friends with Tom and for the longest time (longer than necessary), they had no idea if he was gay or not. Seriously, I just wanted them to ask! So I won't give away any spoilers as to whether he is gay or straight, but I will say that the romance part was really sweet. It was slow burn, none of this insta-love business. Tom and the other person really took their time getting to know each other. I loved that part. But at some point, Tom came between them and I thought this was so unnecessary. I can appreciate that both Maggie and Nash were trying to put their friendship first, but honestly . . . whether he is gay or straight, the other person really shouldn't get mad at that. And at what time, Tom even irked me. It almost seemed like he was deliberately trying to come between Maggie and Nash. In essence, the book started out okay but the characters just got on my nerves. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: I would probably skip this one.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

This is a book review for The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn't look at her like she might break down at any moment. Now she's just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that's all she'll ever be. As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there's a secret she hasn't told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything. Lex's brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn't have to be real to keep you from moving on.

"Sorry Mom but I was below empty."

Those were the last words on a post it that Tyler left on a mirror the night he killed himself. There are so many questions Lexie has, the main one being Why? She also has a secret she is hiding about the night that Ty died, a secret that isn't revealed until almost the end of the book, a secret that hurts. A lot. This entire book just hurts. Tyler had been depressed, but then he started therapy and started taking medication. And people kind of forgot about the depression. That is what was so devastating about Tyler's death. In the time leading up to Tyler's suicide, there were no warnings. No signs. Or at least nothing that made sense until after he did what he did. Other books about suicide that I have read focus more on the person who committed suicide than anyone else. This book doesn't do that. The focus is on the people left behind. Yes, there are snippets of Tyler's life. But it is mainly about Lexie's grief and guilt and trying to move on from a horrible tragedy.

Lexie was an easy character to love. She was obsessed with Math and all things numbers. She could tell you how many years you were statistically expected to live or the statistical probability of actually seeing her brother's ghost. She loved numbers because they were rational and logical and always had a clear answer. But Tyler's death wasn't rational and can't be explained away with a clear  numerical solution. I think that is the point of the book. Things don't wrap up in a neat little bow at the end. There are no happy endings here, just lots and lots of grief. 
And oh, her mother was heartbreaking. I was torn between wanting to strangle her for not being there for Lexie and feeling so sad for her because I can't imagine going through that kind of loss. She actually tells Lexie that her life was over. What?!? She lost a child, yes, but she still had Lexie. Yet, she told Lexie that her life was OVER. I just wanted to weep for Lexie. Throughout the book, we get a glimpse of everything Lexie is really feeling in the form of a journal. The journal is her therapist's idea and since she is much more about numbers, she rejects the idea at first. But the journal does help her process her emotions and the grief she is feeling about Tyler. It even helps her process the blame she feels for herself over his death. 

This book was beautiful and such a must read. It has been on my Kindle for months because I had to work myself up to reading such am emotional book. I am so glad I finally got to it!

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Fellow Book Nerds Unite!

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic is top ten characters who are fellow book nerds.

1. Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - One of my favorite fictional book nerds. When Scout's teacher told her not to read at home anymore, I was in as much despair as Scout.

2. Perdu from The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George - Even though parts of this story dragged a bit, I love the idea of a bookseller who recommends the perfect book to a customer based on what their problem is. And the setting of Paris did not hurt!
3. Cassie from The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey - Cassie is trying to survive an alien invasion, but in every house she raids, she looks for any new books she can find in addition to little items that can help her survival. Priorities, people. She carries around a copy of Huckleberry Finn, along with some poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (one of my favorite books).

4. Cath from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - Cath is the biggest book nerd of them all! She loves the Simon Snow book series so much that she creates fanfiction based on it. Love her.

5. Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl - Ahhh, Matilda. I watched the movie long before I read the book and fell in love with her. Of course, the fact that she read Great Expectations at four years old is a bit intimidating. 
6. Hazel from The Fault In Our Stars by John Green - She was so obsessed with a book that she tracked down its author in Amsterdam just so she could find out how it was supposed to end. Awesome. Who hasn't wanted to do that about a book with an incomplete ending??
7. Sarah from The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd - She loved books so much, but her father did not think that was a worthwhile hobby for a girl. You know, learning is bad and everything that was sarcasm, by the way). She gets so upset when her father bars her from the library. I don't blame her at all.
8. Alice from The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books we Shared by Alice Ozma - I know this one is actually nonfiction, but I just had to include it. Alice and her father make a pact to read together every single night, starting when she is in fourth grade. Somehow they actually maintain this streak until college, even through puberty and teenage hormones and sleepovers. It's a pretty awesome book. 

9. Liesel from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I just read it a couple of weeks ago. It is now one of my favorite books. I absolutely love how obsessed with words Liesel was . . . even before she knew how to read, she knew how important they were. 
10. Rory from Gilmore Girls - Yes, I am aware that she is not a book character, but I don't even care. I had to include her. She is my favorite television character ever. Yes, she really took a book with her everywhere and her idea of a perfect date was going to a bookstore. I can relate.

Who are some of your favorite fictional characters who are fellow book nerds?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Favorite Books Made Into Movies!

How do you usually feel when your favorite books are turned into movies?

I am usually so excited. I just love seeing my favorites turned into adaptations for the big screen. But then . . . I am (sometimes) quite disappointed.

Despite this disappointment, I still can't help getting excited when it happens. I am such an optimist!

Here are some adaptations that I am very excited to see.

1. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
If you thought Gone Girl had a crazy twist, you haven't seen anything yet. The trailer for this one looks super awesome. Love Charlize Theron.

Scheduled Release Date: August 7, 2015 (I didn't realize this one would be out so soon. Yippee!!)

2. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
I love this series! I can hardly wait for the finale to come out next year. I am so excited for the casting for this one. Chloe Moretz has been cast as Cassie. I loved her in If I Stay.
Scheduled Release Date: January 29, 2016

3. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Scheduled Release Date: March 4, 2016

4. Legend by Marie Lu
This one is still very new. CBS Films just acquired the movie rights for this one. I loved this series!
Scheduled Release Date: Unknown

5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
So this one is already out apparently and this is the only book on the list that I haven't read yet. But I think the trailer has sucked me in. And I do feel I must read the book before seeing the movie. Has anyone else read this one? Tell me how it is!

6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (part 2)
This is probably one I am most excited about. It is also probably one of my favorite movie adaptations, with the exception of Princess Bride. I have loved every aspect of the movies. I really enjoy the fact that they have downplayed the whole love triangle thing.

Scheduled Release Date: November 20

7. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
This is another one that is brand new. Dream Works picked up the rights to this movie last year. This was my introduction to Rainbow Rowell and still my favorite of her books. So excited for this one!
Scheduled Release Date: Unknown

Are there any of these on this list you are excited about? How do you feel about your favorite books being made into movies?

Friday, July 24, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

This is a book review for Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

New York Times bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other. 

Wow . . . this book. There are not enough words to describe how incredibly beautiful this book is. I do believe it is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. This book is about way more than two boys attempting to break a record for longest kiss. It is about coming to terms with who you are, it's about falling in love, it's about family and friendship and so much more. Yeah, I am going to be a sap over this book. I'm not even sorry.

I loved every single character in this book. There were so many different types of relationships. There were Peter and Neil, who have been together for several months. They are in love and spend all of their time together. Neil's parents know he is gay, but never ever talk about it. The kiss between Harry and Craig forces that important conversation in a very touching scene. That was one of many scenes that brought tears to my eyes. Then there are Ryan and Avery, who meet at a gay prom. Avery is transgendered and struggles with when to tell Ryan and whether their relationship will continue once he does. Then there is Tariq, a gay black kid who gets beaten up because he is gay. It is that story that prompts Harry and Craig to do this. They don't know Tariq well until they learned of his assault. Then they realized how easily that could happen to any of them and they become closer. Harry and Craig do this test and stream it online, partly to show everyone that there is nothing wrong with two boys kissing. Finally, there is Cooper. Ahhh, Cooper . . . the most heartbreaking of them all. No one knows Cooper is gay, no one except the men he chats with online. He starts chats with older men in gay chat rooms, lying about his age and having very sexually explicit conversations. These men are the only ones he feels he can be honest with and he even lies to them. But then his father finds out about these chat conversations and I just got so angry and so sad. Cooper's father called him horrible names and even hit him. Then Connor runs away and becomes suicidal. I won't give away whether he actually commits suicide or not, but I will say that I think I cried more for his character than any of them.

Now I have no idea how David Levithan was able to so beautifully describe Harry and Craig's kisses for pages and pages, but somehow he did. It wasn't just about the physical act of kissing though. There was so much communicated between these boys without ever saying a word. And can I just talk about the narration? You wouldn't think that narration by a group of men would be very good, but it just worked. Everything about this book just worked for me. The ending was just perfect. With everything that happened with all of the relationships, there needed to be a good conclusion and there was. The conclusion was so hopeful and had so much meaning. And now, if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go and devour everything David Levithan has ever written. 

Notable Quotes:

"Love is so painful, how could you wish it on anybody? And love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way?"

"We wish we could show you the world as it sleeps. Then you'd never have any doubt about how similar, how trusting, how astounding and vulnerable we all are."

"The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us has a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it."

"Some of our parents were always on our side. Some of our parents chose to banish us rather than see us for who we were. And some of our parents, when they found out we were sick, stopped being dragons and became dragonslayers instead."

"The phrase rush to judgment is a silly one. When it comes to judgment, most of us don't have to rush. We don't even have to leave the couch. Our judgment is so easy to reach for."

"There is the sudden. There is the eventual. And in between, there is the living. We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust. We make more than dust. That's all we ask of you. Make more than dust."

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Awake by Natasha Preston

This is a book review for Awake by Natasha Preston. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is August 4, 2015.

Scarlett doesn’t remember anything before the age of four. Her parents say it’s from the trauma of seeing her house burn down, and she accepts the life they’ve created for her without question—until a car accident causes Scarlett to start remembering pieces of an unfamiliar past. When a new guy moves into town, Scarlett feels an instant spark. But Noah knows the truth of Scarlett’s past, and he’s determined to shield her from it...because Scarlett grew up in a cult called Eternal Light, controlled by her biological parents. And they want her back.

When I am finding myself either bored or irritated throughout most of the book, that is not a good sign. It's really not a good sign when I am irritated starting at page three. First of all, it bugged me that everyone made such a big deal about the fact that Scarlett could not remember anything before the age of four. I mean, who cares? I really don't remember much about that time period, if anything. Actually, I think the first eight or nine years of my life passed in a blur. Not only does everyone think it's weird, but Scarlett feels the need to announce it to Noah approximately five minutes after they met. And she kept thinking she was different or weird for it. I swear, I rolled my eyes every time that was mentioned. I know there was a traumatic event that happened to her before the age of four, but I feel there was a better way the author could have handled that. Amnesia before the age of four was not the way to go.

Let's talk about the characters. Scarlett was a whiny, boring character. And seriously, couldn't they do something together besides watch movies? Sorry, but their description of a movie night at every other page almost put me to sleep. I like watching movies as much as the next person, but it's like she had no interests and no hobbies. That's how boring she was. Her relationship with Noah was just as boring. Somehow they started hanging out all the time after a day, they were so in love with each other, but they didn't even kiss for three weeks. Annoying and boring. There was zero chemistry there. The author also showed Noah's POV, but I couldn't even tell the voices apart. The only difference between his POV and Scarlett's was which pronoun they used about the person they were with. Scarlett had a friend, Imogen, for the first two chapters of the book. After some pouting because she didn't have a boyfriend and Scarlett did, she was basically forgotten about in favor of Noah. Sigh. Could I get one decent female friendship in a YA novel? Please? Is that too much to ask?

I will say that the book had a bit more action at about the halfway mark. That is when I became more interested in what was happening. That was when they revealed to Scarlett the truth about Eternal Light. Now when it became clear what their plan was with Scarlett, I hated Noah. Seriously hated him. Not to give too much away, but I really don't understand how any decent human being could have fallen for their plan. I know leaders of cults are good at brainwashing people, but this was so far out there. And there was never any explanation for why these people fell for it or why they believed it to begin with. So there is a point when Scarlett was in danger and there was some fast paced action. I enjoyed this part of the book a lot more than all the buildup. But the ending was just a little too wrapped up for me. The author did have kind of an open ending in one respect so there could be a sequel in the future. If there is, I have zero interest in reading it. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Just skip it. Really, don't bother. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

This is a book review for What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is August 4, 2015. 

It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead, he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college. The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions, and Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past? 

Okay guys, this was probably the most realistic YA I have read in a long time! And it's told from the POV of a male. How often does that happen? And the fact that it is about teen pregnancy told from the POV of a male . . . that is even better. When I started reading this, I am not entirely sure I was going to like it. Something about the writing style just felt off. Then I realized it was because I am just not used to being inside a guy's head. There were times during this book where I alternated between wanting to strangle Ryden and wanting to hug him. Not only is he dealing with being a single father a seventeen, but he also must deal with the grief and guilt he feels over Meg's death. Ryden was in a bit of denial about being a dad. He was so scared about being a bad father that he ended up not being much of a dad at all. He made a lot of questionable decisions and he really didn't try to bond with his daughter very much. He still did the basic childcare stuff, but he would foist her off on someone else whenever he could.

And one other thing that was realistic: the mother-son dynamic. It was so refreshing to see a parental figure in YA fiction that was actually there. Most of them are absent or downright neglectful. Ryden's mom helped care for Hope when Ryden was at work. I thought she struck a great balance between helping Ryden and actually doing everything for him. She didn't try to take over with Hope and she kept reminding Ryden that he was the father and he had to make the big decisions about daycare. She also tried to have several talks with him about facing the realities of fatherhood. Ryden was just intent on making sure nothing changed and his mom was really trying to get him to accept things. His mom also got pregnant with Ryden while in high school so she had some experience with being a single parent. 

The description of this book indicates that it is mainly about the romance between Ryden and Joni. It wasn't. Yes, the romance aspect was a part of it. But the biggest part of the book was Ryden coming to terms with Meg's decision to keep the baby, as well as coming to terms with life as a young father. I was honestly kind of apathetic towards Joni at first, but I warmed up to her. I won't giveaway much, but I will say that Ryden starts his relationship with Joni on a lie and that bugged me. I also kind of hated the subplot of Ryden searching for his biological father. I never got that. This guy runs out on Ryden's mom when she gets pregnant, but somehow Ryden thinks that meeting this guy will provide some insight into being a father. That part of the story never made sense to me. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: This one is worth reading. Definitely buy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Diverse Reads!

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic is books that celebrate diversity!

1. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson - I really, really loved this book about a transgender character. David's transformation and his longing to be a girl was heartbreaking. Such an important book to read.

2. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan - I just finished this one and it was hands down one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It is about two boys trying to break the Guinness World Record for longest kiss (over thirty two hours). Oh . . . and it's narrated by a chorus of the generation of men who have died from AIDS. Loved this!
3. Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen - This is one of the best books I have read this year, hands down. In this book, the main character has to come to terms with the fact that her father is gay and the fact that he is dying of AIDS. I cried buckets with this one.
4. Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward - If you haven't read this one, do it! This is a fictional story of a lower class black family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. The daughter is fourteen and pregnant and the family actually raises pitbulls to fight other dogs. This book is so incredibly heartbreaking, yet riveting. 

5. What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi - I just read this one and it was so different and so good. It was the story of a teen pregnancy told from the father's perspective! I had a few issues with it, but I was still so happy with it overall. 
6. Black Iris by Leah Raeder - I will use any excuse to rave about this book. The main character is bisexual and dealing with bullying and the death of her mother, who was mentally ill. Laney is about as messed up a character as I have ever seen, but I still love her.
7. Shanghai Girls by Lisa Lee - I loved this book way more than I thought I would. It starts in 1937 China where two sisters (Pearl and May) are sold by their father to men who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. The story tells of their journey from China to America and continues with them trying to make a life for themselves in America. I really, really, REALLY loved reading the story of these two girls.
8. I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios - There are just not enough books that deal with PTSD, but this book does it well. Josh has PTSD and he has lost his leg in the war. I loved the realistic way his issues were addressed and loved the romance between him and Skylar.
9. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines - This is another book that I was surprised to like as much as I did. A young black man is an unwitting accomplice to a liquor store robbery that leaves three men dead. He is then sentenced to death. His aunt and godmother convince another young black man (a teacher) to visit Jefferson in jail and give him some pride before going to the electric chair. This one was so sad. 
10. Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt - One of my favorites from last year! This book takes place during a time when people knew very little about HIV and were very scared of it. When June's uncle dies from the illness, she reaches out to his partner (also dying of the disease) and forms a friendship, despite the wishes of her parents.


11. Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moscowitz - Okay, so I just finished this one today (after this list was already drafted), but I just had to include it. It was so incredibly good. A girl who doesn't feel she is white enough, straight enough, gay enough, thin enough, etc, etc. I absolutely loved this book about a girl trying to make her own rules and form her own identity. 

What are a few of your favorite books dealing with diversity? I really want to know!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Beach Reads: Recommendations Needed

First of all, I don't normally like the phrase “beach read.” In my opinion, I think that any book you take to the beach can be considered a beach read. It’s really that simple. 
But then I think about this heat: this ridiculous, soul sucking heat. (And for those of you who aren’t experiencing Summer right now . . . . can I come stay with you for the next few months?? Please . . . .)

This is the temperature right now in Italy.
Notice that the LOW for the evening is 77 degrees. Ugh, we are experiencing a heat wave of epic proportions. The day after I got back from Scotland, there were power outages all over Italy. Do you know what that means? No power = NO AC!!! Forget Internet, forget television and forget the fact that I couldn’t cook anything . . .  I felt the loss of the air conditioner more than anything. And it was out from 9:30 in the morning until 10:00pm at night.

So what does this have to do with the post? Don’t worry, I’m getting to it. With no Internet or TV or power, the only thing I could do was read. The problem was that it was way too hot and sticky to read anything complicated. At the time, I was in the middle of Rook by Sharon Cameron. Don’t get me wrong, that is an awesome book. But I was in no mood for the complicated plot. Looking through my Kindle, I noticed a pattern: just about every single book on my Kindle fell into two categories: 1) they were about heavy topics, like death or mental illness or 2) they had super involved, complicated plots that required way more brain power than I was prepared to give. I finally found one book that didn’t require a lot of brainpower: We’ll Always Have Paris (awesome book, by the way).

Well now that our AC is back (thank goodness!!!), I am finding myself in desperate need of something lighter, something that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower to enjoy. But I am at a loss! 

I am looking for recommendations from you, my wonderful readers. I don't necessarily care about the genre, I just want something light and fluffy, something that doesn't require a lot of thought to get through.

What beach reads would you recommend?

Friday, July 17, 2015


I have been back from my vacation in Scotland for over a week now and I still feel like I am on vacation . . . or maybe that is just wishful thinking because I loved Scotland so much.

Scotland was amazing and had some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. No, this is not a bookish post but I wanted to share some of these beautiful pictures. I swear, every place we went looked like it came from a postcard. And we got incredibly lucky with the weather. With the exception of one day, it was sunny and beautiful all week. 

First we flew into Edinburgh and spent a few days exploring the city. 
Then we rented a car for some exploring. We drove to St. Andrews, where we walked the oldest golf course in the world. I am not even a fan of golf, but I was still in awe of the beautiful course. And we actually got to walk on the course, where Tiger Woods has walked before! Then we explored the ruins of the nearby castle and cathedral. St. Andrews is a beautiful town.

Next we took a very scenic drive from St. Andrews to Fort William. We passed through the Trossachs National Park and Glencoe. Yeah, these pictures are just a few of the beautiful ones we took. This was really the only day where it rained off and on all day. Even with all the clouds and the rain, it was still beautiful scenery!

Next was the Jacobite train in Fort William! I really get why this is one of the most scenic train routes in the world. It was so beautiful. And we were lucky to have a great seat by the window and all that scenery. Now I have never seen Harry Potter, but Harry Potter fans should recognize the train. Apparently, the kids rode in this very train in one of the movies!

Finally, we went to the Urquart Castle, which was right on Loch Ness. It was such a gorgeous day!

I hope you enjoyed my pictures of Scotland! I can't wait to go back!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

This is a book review for Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is July 28, 2015.

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head. Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home. Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

This was my first Mary Kubica book, but it will not be my last! This book did start out a bit slow. Heidi is married to Chris and they have a twelve year old daughter. Heidi is still haunted by the pregnancy she had to abort eleven years earlier. Heidi had gotten pregnant and then discovered she had cervical cancer. Because of the advanced stage of the cancer, Heidi was forced to have an abortion and then she had to have a hysterectomy. When she sees Willow and her baby on a train platform, she can't get her out of her mind. Before her family knows what has happened, Heidi has invited Willow and the baby to stay with them for an undetermined amount of time. There is a mystery with who Willow is and whether she is being honest or not. The book tells the story from Heidi and Chris's (her husband's) POV. It also has Willow's POV, but this section involves Willow answering questions from a police detective. It is obvious that both Heidi and Willow are in trouble with the law, but what isn't obvious is why.

At first, I was annoyed by the writing style. The author just told EVERYTHING about these people's lives. I don't need to know that Heidi put on lipstick or that Chris grabbed his briefcase by the door or that Heidi bought a cup of coffee and . . . well, you get the idea. But at some point, I got used to that style of writing and it just worked. Yes, all the details that went into this story became kind of necessary. It took a couple of chapters for the pacing to speed up a little, but then I was hooked. I loved Willow's chapters because she went into detail about why she was a runaway and how she became homeless. Heid's chapters struck me as a bit cold and strange. It did not help that the author painted her as a jealous, insecure, selfish wife. I mean, she invited this stranger to stay at her home and gave NO consideration to how her husband and daughter would react. She didn't seem to care that much about whether they were okay with it or not. And at first she was genuinely concerned about Willow and her baby. But then she becomes a bit obsessed with the baby. Man this mystery was ENTHRALLING. I mean, seriously . . . there were so many things going on. What did Heidi and Willow do to land themselves in trouble? Was Willow who she said she was? There were a few things I predicted as the story progressed, but some things I just didn't see coming. This story actually went in a completely different direction than I was expecting.

One thing I didn't necessarily understand was why Heidi was holding on to the pain of her hysterectomy for so long. I know it was traumatic, especially since she wanted a bigger family. But her job was kind of a social worker. It was never really explained it in detail, just that she spent all her time helping homeless people and children living in poverty. So I guess my question was why this woman? Why this baby? Why NOW after so long?? I guess that was never fully explained. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: If you are a fan of mysteries, I say buy!