Book Activism: January/February

Though these be reviews in nature, I prefer to think of them as raising awareness.

Book activism, if you will.

There will be links to further check out these titles should my enjoyment make you curious.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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If you follow me on any social media platforms, you will have already seen me gush over this book. What a joy to read. The whip-smart dialog and super sexy, steamy romance set this book apart for me from other rom-com’s.

Description from the internet:

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

2) A person’s undoing

3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I read it in two days. I carried it around with me like a security blanket. I sniggered in the parking lot to pick up my son at school when I came to a sexy scene and realized only I knew what I was reading. Loved the characters, the pacing, the setting, and the sexy times.

I would 1000% like to see this made in a movie. Some fan casting to wet your whistle.

The Hating Game on Goodreads

Follow Sally Thorne on Twitter because she is adorbs

And/or on Instagram 


The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

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Shifting gears to a YA debut by London-based, American author, Katherine Webber. From the first time I read the description of this book, I knew I wanted to read it.

Description from the internet:

Wing Jones, like everyone else in her town, has worshipped her older brother, Marcus, for as long as she can remember. Good-looking, popular, and the star of the football team, Marcus is everything his sister is not.

Until the night everything changes when Marcus, drunk at the wheel after a party, kills two people and barely survives himself. With Marcus now in a coma, Wing is crushed, confused, and angry. She is tormented at school for Marcus’s mistake, haunted at home by her mother and grandmothers’ grief. In addition to all this, Wing is scared that the bank is going to repossess her home because her family can’t afford Marcus’s mounting medical bills.

Every night, unable to sleep, Wing finds herself sneaking out to go to the school’s empty track. When Aaron, Marcus’s best friend, sees her running one night, he recognizes that her speed, skill, and agility could get her spot on the track team. And better still, an opportunity at a coveted sponsorship from a major athletic gear company. Wing can’t pass up the opportunity to train with her longtime crush and to help her struggling family, but can she handle being thrust out of Marcus’s shadow and into the spotlight?

The prose blew me away. Voice and passion pulsed from every page. I loved the setting, which is 1995 Atlanta, and loved the characters even more. Katherine’s descriptions of everything from the track field to Wing’s LaoLao’s dumplings were absolutely delicious. I immediately felt I was back in time experiencing a taste of a world I have never seen, and thankful for the chance to see it through Wing’s compassionate eyes.

What a completely satisfying and rewarding read.

This book is already out in the UK, but will not be out in America until March 14th.

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones on Goodreads

Follow Katherine on Instagram and also live in London vicariously through her

And vicarious living can also be done through her Twitter

(I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback.)


Girl out of Water by Laura Silverman

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Another YA, by the super rad Laura Silverman. I was so intrigued by this book, which is such a departure from what I normally read, that I simply could not wait to get my hands on it.

Description from the internet:

Ocean breeze in her hair and sand between her toes, Anise can’t wait to spend the summer before her senior year surfing and hanging out on the beach with friends. Santa Cruz is more than her home-it’s her heart. But when her aunt, a single mother, is in a serious car accident, Anise must say goodbye to California to help care for her three young cousins.

Landlocked Nebraska is the last place Anise wants to be. Sure, she loves her family, but it’s hard to put her past behind her when she’s living in the childhood house of the mother who abandoned her. And with every Instagram post, her friends back home feel further away.

Then she meets Lincoln, a charismatic, one-armed skater who challenges her to swap her surfboard for a skateboard. Because sometimes the only way to find your footing is to let go.

Oh how I FELT for Anise! Such a compelling character. Her voice just leaps off the page at you. She is complicated without being angsty, and her journey is relatable and real, and a little swoony. I did find myself wishing for the ocean right along with Anise, but was so wrapped up in the plot that it didn’t deter me. Definitely a great early summer read.

This book comes out May 2017, so keep it in mind for those lazy, hazy days.

Girl out of Water on Goodreads

Follow Laura on Twitter 

And Instagram for bookish and social awareness news. 

(I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback.)


Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

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I decided to read this book for two reasons:

  1. My trusted friend, Kayla Olson (author of The Sandcastle Empire, which I will have a post for next week!!! STAY TUNED), insisted. Intensely. Maybe she hovered over me while I requested it from NetGalley.
  2. It is relevant to my fangirl interests.

It SLAYED me.

Description from the internet:

Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

*flails all over the room* *Tweets @ author in panic* *emoji face explosion*

This book was not what I expected. Every time I felt I had gotten my footing, had figured something out, it changed. And I loved every second. I was completely sucked in to the mystery and romance. Loved how the author used Transcripts and Tweets, as well as traditional prose narration to weave the story.

This book is out in June and I highly recommend you add it to your TBR list.

Follow Me Back on Goodreads

Follow A.V. Geiger on Instagram

and Twitter and use the #EricThornObsessed hashtag to express your feelings 

(I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback.)


I’ll just go bury myself in books now.

xo,

Rebekah

A Love Letter to Girl in Pieces

If you follow my blog, you will know I do not regularly do book reviews. For that, I use Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Noble because leaving a review on one of those sites for a book you love helps the author of that book immensely.

When I do talk about a book on my blog, it means that book has hooked me in the heart. It will not be reviewed so much as emoted about.

First, the description:

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. 
 

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge. 
 

A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.

Kathleen Glasgow, the author of Girl in Pieces, and I are friends on Facebook. We have never met in real life, but after reading this book I feel like a tiny piece of her soul now resides in me. This book is deeply personal, for the writer to share with the world, for the reader to experience through the text. This is a book you will likely not find easy to get through, and when you finish you will not quickly forget or move on from.

Kathleen sent me the ARC (which stands for Advanced Reader Copy) because we’re both authors in the YA community, and because I stalked her Facebook when she was giving them out for review.

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I started it immediately, wanting to read and get my thoughts out on the internet to best help promote the book. About sixty pages in, I abandoned my plan. There were times when I could only read three or four pages in a sitting because it was making me feel feel feel. It became clear that this book was not junk food. This was not a speed read. This was a book you experienced, sometimes in public— while waiting for a movie, while ignoring family members at meals, while sitting by a pool — and sometimes only in the dim quiet of your bedroom, surrounded by blankets to ease the pain.

Not everyone will feel what I felt for Charlie. To some, her journey will be compelling, but completely other from their own experience. But anyone that has ever experienced deep, confusing self-harm —for whatever reason, in whatever walk of life — will be able to see a little of themselves in Charlie.

By nature I like to maintain control. By hard work, years of discipline, lots of good loving and growing up, I have learned how to let go. As a teenager I was still learning how to exist in the world at all. As a teenager, I was overtaken daily by fear. It became unmanageable and impossible to maintain, so I restricted. I built walls around myself. I ate only candy some days. Tuna others. Often, pickles and sugar-free jello were my only reward for a day in the world. I shrank down, and eventually, I became a whiff of my former self. This action was accompanied by all manner of obsessive compulsive behavior, and followed by many years of retraining my mind and body to live in the stupid, big, uncontrolled world I had been born into.

Charlie cuts. She cuts away the pain. She cuts away the lack of power she has over her life. Reading about her journey as an adult I felt so thankful to Kathleen for writing this book for young women, boys…grown-girls still lost in this. When you are trapped in this kind of pattern, sometimes it feels like you aren’t seen. That people are looking away from your pain, unable to deal, too busy, too something. I know that because I felt it at times, even though everyone saw, everyone knew, and I was surrounded by people who wanted to help dig me out.

Girl in Pieces sees all the crooked edges and works to make them safe. It is a voice to this silent scream. It is a conversation starter.

There is no glory or beauty in Charlie’s scars, and the author does not make light of the very dark and dangerous path self-harm can lead to. But this is Charlie’s journey to learning to love herself regardless of the ugly she has taken into, and cut onto, her body. It is a journey worth taking with her.

The writing is stunning. It moves along the page like notes of music from an instrument. There is color and life swirled in with the pain. Funny, honest, thoughtful moments that make the story feel like looking in on a real life. There’s rough romance, and some language even a sailor might blush at, and somewhere in there I went from being certain this was a story about every other kind of pain than my own, to knowing this was a story about all pain and how there is always a way through it without hurting yourself or someone else.

I cried. I finished the book on the couch while my son watched Teen Titans. I had to get up from my spot and walk away, close the bathroom door, sob on the edge of the tub. I hugged the book to my body. I consider it one of the best I’ve read this year, and an important book, one that should be read, and praised, and shared.

Here is a link to pre-order Girl in Pieces, so that you might experience something truly fucking angelic.*

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*You’ll understand once you’ve read. And you’ll love it.

 

 

YA BOOK CLUB: ALLEGIANT

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YA Book Club is a product of Tracey Neithercott’s brain. This usually results in a lot of fun times and general shenanigans. For full details and instructions click the link.

The book of the month is…

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Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

I will not even try to do a post without spoilers. At this point I can’t imagine what purpose that would serve any of us. Though, I will say, THIS POST CONTAINS MANY SPOILERS AND DRAMATIC EXCLAMATIONS. 

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SPOILERS THROUGHOUT!

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I have a lot of good things to say about the Divergent trilogy as a whole. I think the creation of Four (because when you can be called Four why would you ever go by anything else?) and his existence in our imaginary world is one blessing that cannot be taken from us. The story is absorbing. The world is compelling and largely believable as a functioning future version of our own world. The swoon and the feels present in all three books never disappointed me.

I am impressed by Veronica Roth’s storytelling ability. Her prose is clean, bold, sometimes stark, but always engaging. She created characters that were flawed, strong, weak, broken, beautiful, and deeply real.

I have a lot of good things to say about Allegiant individually.

For me, Tris was never my favorite narrator. I had a hard time connecting with her from the beginning of the series. It’s hard to explain. I loved Four, though, and while I don’t think the dual POV in Allegiant was distinct enough for me, I still very much enjoyed having his POV because it helped me see Tris in a new and kinder way. I found myself more attached to her and more aware of her beauty and goodness than when I was confined to her head.

I think this was genius on Veronica Roth’s part because…when Tris dies, it resonated with me for days. Tris became a woman capable of true sacrifice over the course of this series. She became solid but vulnerable in Allegiant, and losing her was truly devastating. However true to the character and the story as it may be, watching Tris die still didn’t sit well with me and it has taken me a a few weeks of intermittent mulling to discern why.

My reasons are three-fold:

1. I can see a way out. I can see how Tris could sacrifice herself for Caleb (which, yep, she had to do) and still survive. As writers we give ourselves outs in our prose, sometimes they are small and wobbly because you don’t ever intend to use them but feel safer with them there. Sometimes they are foreshadowy and red-inked because you need to know they won’t go away. It was written, in multiple places, that Tris could withstand serums. I believe she could have survived had David not shot her. I also think there was a way to redeem Caleb’s character and save Tris from David’s bullet. I think Caleb could have done something. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m reaching. Maybe she could have reached a little too. For us and for Four.

2. Four didn’t get to say goodbye. The death will never feel satisfying to me, and it will never feel worthwhile for this reason. It will always be a little incomplete and unfinished. I needed more than I was given. I can even understand the argument that the way in which she died — and all the unsaid and unfinished — was appropriate for this series and world. I am not sure I care though. As a reader, I felt a little let down. It hurt.

3. Taking those other thoughts into consideration, this next one is completely and utterly personal. I am writing a series (hopefully someone else will agree and want to publish it), in first person POV, so I know what it feels like to share headspace with a character. As attached as I am to my protagonist, and as much as she is a part of me, I try to believe that if I HAD to kill her to tell her story honestly then I would. I respect Veronica Roth for her willingness to do this with Tris, because I am sure it was very painful. Having said that and understanding why she felt this was the right ending, it bothered me that she (Veronica Roth) didn’t fight harder for Tris. This is not an attack on her writing ability, nor is it an attack on her person. I just feel this way, and it won’t go away.

Beyond my problems with the books (overall and Allegiant specifically) I still think the Divergent trilogy is a well-written, engaging and accessible series. Veronica Roth is a talented writer, and someone I expect, and hope, to be writing for years to come. I think the ending overshadowed some of the other big, fascinating aspects of the book. The world outside the fence is a broken but interesting place. The relationships feel real and vulnerable, which make the characters feel more human.

For Veronica Roth’s first series, at such a young age, Divergent is a powerful example of her talent. I am able to get past my own muddled feelings to still recommend this series to everyone and anyone, and that speaks volumes to its value.

Road Trip Wednesday #155: Best October Book

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic: What’s the best book you read in October?

October found me at the end of my third revision on my manuscript and breathing a sigh of relief. I was also breathing to maintain my composure, to wait for my feedback, and to focus my inner critic. Since I had all that breathing room, I also consumed as many books as my schedule (as a Brooklyn Mom, Wife, and writer the schedule can get a little tight sometimes) would allow. These are the books I read during October:

In my opinion the best book I read of the lot was The Crown of Embers. I think Rae Carson did a phenomenal job with her sequel. The addition of the creepy Inviernos guide and the deeply moving love story really kept me interested. But, if I’m being totally honest — and why not be? — the make-out scene sealed it. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet, so I won’t go into detail. However, it made my toes curl. I read it three times. I can’t fully even explain why. Maybe because of how well she built the tension between the characters, maybe because I have a soft-spot for war-hardened men, or maybe because I think Elisa just needed to be kissed, but it was good. Highly recommend this book, and its predecessor, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Some of my favorite right now.

Here is the Goodreads:

In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

And my rating when I finished it:

I feel infinite.

Ok, so I have said before that I don’t particularly like to do reviews on this blog. I am not someone who feels books can necessarily be broken down by a reader for another reader. Reading is incredibly subjective. My agent friend and I recently discussed this in relation to my manuscript and her notes. So that is not what this is. At all.

A couple Road Trip Wednesday’s ago we had to write about our “best book in August”, and a bunch of the other carnival participants had read and chosen The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had been planning to read it since the movie is coming out soon, but had been putting it off. All those who read it and discussed it on RTW did not necessarily encourage me to bump it up my Goodreads list anytime soon. I was actually dreading reading this book. I was actually terribly afraid of what I would find within the pages.

This week is back to school week, and almost on a whim, I decided it was time. (After thinking in detail about my high school years, both in and out of public school for the most recent Road Trip Wednesday.) I sat down yesterday evening after dinner with my Kindle and began to read. Around seven we had to go get my son diapers, so I had to take a break. We came back and I dove right back in. I didn’t much stop after that. My husband kindly played with Sam while I was absorbed into Charlie’s world. I couldn’t pull myself out. I was afraid of where this story was going, wracked with worry over Charlie and his open, exposed heart. I was torn up by the world he was watching unfold, and in love with it too. In love with him.

I will not give more information about the plot of the book, I will only say this: I cried for all the right reasons. That is all I can say because I don’t want you to miss out on the experience of feeling it all should you choose to read it. And you should choose to read it if you haven’t already. As I said on my Wednesday in response to the RTW question, my experience in high school was not a good one, and my parents took me out rather than subject themselves or anyone else to anymore turmoil.

This problem with school, both socially and disciplinarily, actually began much, much earlier than high school. High school was not the first time my parents took me out. After fifth grade I was home schooled with my best friend for two school years. When we moved to Colorado I went back to public school because I needed a way to make friends. I spent the first six weeks eating lunch with my eighth grade English teacher. She really encouraged me to find my way. I did not do well. I made friends, and enemies, I was a compulsive liar and troublemaker. I liked to create drama and intrigue wherever I went. I did eventually find comfort in the drama kids and a special grammar workshop my English teacher put me in. I loved my Community Service teacher (it was a weird elective, I know), and I terrorized my alcoholic science teacher. A man who never gave me detention even though I really, really deserved it. I made some good friends, and had some poetic interactions.

As I read about Charlie I ached. In my life I have had a few experiences like this with books. Overall I love to read, but not always does a book actually create something new in me. (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, to name a few.) This book was published when I was in eighth grade. I wish I had found it then. I needed it then. Now is OK, but then would have been amazing.

For me, Charlie is a boy I know, and a piece of myself, and someone totally new. I think this book is incredibly relevant to the audience it targets because it is true. Yes, he is deeply intelligent and poetic, but his experience is also filled with honesty and sadness and hope, and that is needed. The concept of being completely present in life is a hard one to hold on to, whether you are fifteen or twenty seven. Charlie holds on to it, even when he comes up against something terribly bleak. This is worth taking to heart.

I am a mom to a son, and a sister to brothers, and a wife to a man who was once a high school wallflower-art-prodigy. I was also an outcast of my own creation. The Perks of Being a Wallflower touched on all those parts of me. If you have read it, I would love to hear your feedback. If you haven’t, do and then write me. For now here is the trailer for the upcoming film.

Insurgent Review

I don’t particularly like to review books. I feel like it will never matter what you think about a book because ultimately reading — like all manners in which we experience art — is deeply subjective. In other words, we like what we like and that is hard to change. That being true, I am going to review Insurgent because I want to talk about it and maybe you want to read about it.

Insurgent picks up where Divergent left off, quite literally. There is very little second book summarizing, making us responsible to remember what the hell happened at the end of the first book. I don’t mind this, but I think some people do. Most of the plot of Insurgent hinges on the conflict between the Erudite and Dauntless traitors and everyone else. This makes for a sightly disturbing war like environment where teenagers and adults are murdering each other. It also sets us up for the surprising possibility that this world we are in is not entirely what it seems. This is good, but reminds me a little of LOST. When you read it (and if you watched LOST) you may understand what I mean.

Insurgent is better than Divergent in a lot of ways, but it still left me wanting. I like Veronica Roth’s style, it’s clean and clear, and she has a real talent for writing fight scenes with great finesse. Tris, the narrator and main character, is a departure from most female voices. I like her, but I think she would be very difficult to be around. The real draw for me (and many other young women I know) is Tobias. He is an incredibly strong character, perfectly outlined and detailed, and totally sexy. I would read it again just to visualize him.

A conversation with my sister-in-law about Tobias or Four. It went on for a bit. I will spare you.

One of the tests with any piece of fiction is whether you can do anything else well while reading it. Insurgent is the kind of book you’ll set down, thinking you are ready to do something else, and then pick up again ten minutes later. The pacing is fast, the voice consistent, the story deeply compelling. There are problems, and Veronica Roth is the first to admit that, but there are so many truly clever things too that you really do overlook the shortcomings.

I recommend it, especially since writing about it is making me want to read it again. Get it if you don’t already have it. Swoon along with me, and be thankful for characters like Tobias and young writers like Veronica Roth.