Book Review: Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen

Book Review: Life Unaware by Cole GibsenLife Unaware Published by Entangled Teen on April 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Regan Flay has been talking about you.

Regan Flay is on the cusp of achieving her control-freak mother's "plan" for high school success―cheerleading, student council, the Honor Society—until her life gets turned horribly, horribly upside down. Every bitchy text. Every bitchy email. Every lie, manipulation, and insult she's ever said have been printed out and taped to all the lockers in school.

Now Regan has gone from popular princess to total pariah.

The only person who even speaks to her is her former best friend's hot but socially miscreant brother, Nolan Letner. Nolan thinks he knows what Regan's going through, but what nobody knows is that Regan isn't really Little Miss Perfect. In fact, she's barely holding it together under her mom's pressure. But the consequences of Regan's fall from grace are only just beginning. Once the chain reaction starts, no one will remain untouched...

Especially Regan Flay.

Book Review:

In my opinion, LIFE UNAWARE is one of Entangled Teen’s best books to date.

When Regan Flay’s nasty texts, emails, and IMs are plastered all over the school, the popular girl plummets to the bottom of the social hierarchy. Regan even faces some of the bullying she’s dished out, insulted and ignored by her friends. At first, Regan tries to face the crisis like her congresswoman mother would, but does she really want to do that? Does she want to act like her mother, who has a suffocating plan for Regan’s success? Or does she want to be herself?

LIFE UNAWARE is a perfect title for this book. Until she’s on the other side, Regan isn’t aware of how her mean comments and actions impact others. And even though she has an anxiety disorder and an overbearing mother, Regan acknowledges there’s no excuse for being a bully. In her own words, “I was just… being an asshole (p. 86).” With the help of Nolan, her former best friend’s brother and fellow outcast, Regan starts to turn her mind around and realize high school is hard enough — she doesn’t need to add to the horribleness.

I do think Regan’s turnaround was a little fast — it happened in about a week. But I really like the message in LIFE UNAWARE, that instead of bullying each other, we should stand up for each other. Say nice things instead of nasty insults. The way Regan realizes this is quite surprising. I won’t spoil it, but I like that whole aspect of the book.

Socialize with the author:

Cole Gibsen:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 7, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Book Review:

Let me say this first: SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is one cute book. It gave me warm fuzzies, and very few books do that. I mean, I wanted to find my own Blue and have an email friendship that turns romantic, and I’m not romantic in the slightest.

But at the same time, I don’t want to discount this book by calling it cute, because it’s important, thoughtful, and well-written.

Simon has a secret email friendship with Blue. They go to the same school, but they don’t know each other’s real identity. The distance and safety of email allows Simon and Blue to talk about all sorts of things, from family troubles to being gay and coming out in the South. But when Martin finds Simon’s emails, he blackmails Simon into setting him up with the popular Abby. Simon’s stuck: if he doesn’t help, Martin will post the emails to the school’s Tumblr. What upsets Simon the most is that he might lose Blue’s friendship, since Blue’s so secretive.

I blew through this book in a couple of hours, and I know it’s one I’ll reread at least a few times. Simon is a great character. He has a good relationship with his parents (who are supportive), good friendships with boys and girls (it can be hard to find boy/girl friendships in YA), and he’s realistic. He feels like a real teenage boy. He’s just trying to figure out where he fits in a world that’s constantly changing while juggling a totally adorable and hot relationship with his secret email (boy)friend.

In his own words: “As a side note, don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever (Chapter 18).”

The relationship between Simon and Blue was my favorite part of the book. There’s actually development, and I loved hearing from both sides thanks to the email format. I very rarely swoon over relationships in books, but I definitely did in this one.

I feel like I should say more, but really, all I want to do is flail about and say, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA now!

Socialize with the author:

Becky Albertalli:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Book Review: Black Iris by Leah RaederBlack Iris by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria on April 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

Book Review:

black iris leeannadotmeBLACK IRIS is a book I’ve been looking forward to for months, so when I started it, I tried to savor it. I wanted to take in and enjoy every line of Leah Raeder’s gorgeous prose, but I couldn’t tease myself. After two days of reading slow, I gave in and read the rest of the book in one frantic gulp. A week later, I’m still nursing a book hangover. I knew BLACK IRIS would destroy me, and did it ever. I’m talking destruction in the best way possible, of course.

I really just wanted to howl like a wolf for my review, but I figured that wouldn’t be too informative. But that’s how I felt when I turned the last page of BLACK IRIS — like the wolf, a wild, powerful beast, high on the success of getting revenge on my enemies. The author put me so completely inside Laney’s head that I felt like her. It’s a great feeling to have — with as many books as I read, rarely do they impact me so emotionally that I feel each betrayal and revelation like a sucker punch to the gut.

BLACK IRIS is smart, sexy, bold, heart-wrenching, dark, and a hundred other adjectives. At times it pokes a bit of fun at other new adult books, such as the magic formula of broken girl plus bad boy equaling sexual healing. And then there are times when BLACK IRIS dives into the human psyche, giving a look at what might happen if you were unafraid of the consequences of getting revenge on all those who have fucked you over. Oh, and there’s some page-scorching sex, of all varieties. Laney and Blythe? My new favorite couple.

I haven’t talked at all about the plot, but BLACK IRIS is a book best read blind. I don’t want to spoil a second of it. Here’s what I will say: the book flips around in time, building tension and anticipation between last year and this year. Gradually, the reason for Laney’s quest for revenge is shown even as that quest takes off. The time jumping also showed me the differing states of Laney’s relationships with Armin and Blythe as I was being drawn into her web. I was super surprised by the ultimate revelations, which is always something I enjoy.

I like to reread, but BLACK IRIS is a book I wanted to begin again as soon as I finished it, which is a bit fast, even for me. But I want to reread because I know I missed little details and descriptions when I started reading faster because I had to find out what happened. I’ve never used the bookmark feature so much on my e-reader as I did when reading BLACK IRIS.

In a way, BLACK IRIS could feel like a checklist of stuffing things inside books: Laney deals with her sexuality, with bullying and her mother’s suicide, with drug use, with the tightrope of female friendships when she’s attracted to them, with finding herself in a new world, with showing her enemies not to fuck with her. But thanks to Raeder’s skillful writing, you don’t feel like these things are in the book just to be in there. No, they’re all important aspects of Laney and her story.

Laney calls herself an Unsympathetic Protagonist, and BLACK IRIS is an emotional and atmospheric ride inside her head during an unforgettable year. As she says, “Fuck forgiveness.”

Let’s talk about it:

What’s something new you’d like to see in New Adult?

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Leah Raeder:
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– leeanna

Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney SummersAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic, Young Adult
Pages: 321
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Book Review:

ALL THE RAGE is a book that made me quiver with rage for what Romy endures.

“Because ‘slut’ was just too humanizing, I guess. A slit’s not even a person (p. 38*).”

You know who writes SLIT on Romy’s mom’s car? The son of the sheriff. If that doesn’t make you want to dive into Romy’s story, to see why everyone hates her so much, I don’t know what will. I’m not trying to be sensational — ALL THE RAGE is full of lines I could quote.

ALL THE RAGE is my first Courtney Summers book, but it won’t be my last. It’s hard stuff to read at times, but I loved how the author didn’t pull any punches or censor anything. I’m sure when I reread this, I’ll find more gems hidden in its pages. Like all the little observations she makes about how society has trained women to be polite. Such as when Romy automatically takes a napkin with a number from a guy who creeps her out, “like the obligation to be nice to him is greater than myself (p. 233*).”

I was a bit confused at the start of ALL THE RAGE, because the book flips between NOW and BEFORE, between Romy’s rape and the horribleness she endures after. There’s not a lot of flipping though, and eventually I knew enough to put the pieces together. I think the confusion I felt as a reader echoes some of Romy’s confusion over what happened to her, since she couldn’t remember.

Okay. So I haven’t really talked about the book itself, the plot or characters, but I’m not going to do that. I went into this book with almost no foreknowledge, and I think that’s the best way to read it. I want it to hit you as hard as it hit me, so no spoilers from me.

I think ALL THE RAGE should be required reading for all high school students and well, everyone. Because it talks about rape culture in a way that will make you think. We live in a world where rape is blamed on the victim for what she was wearing or because she asked for it. We live in a world where if rapists are actually convicted, it’s their future that’s ruined because of one little mistake. We live in a world where people are sympathetic for the perpetrator, not for the victim. We live in a world where people in power can cover up a crime or even ignore it. We live in a world where Romy hopes an unborn baby isn’t a girl, because being a girl is hard and dangerous and painful.

And I apologize for the preachiness, but that’s what ALL THE RAGE did to me. It makes me want to shout from the rooftops. It makes me want to put the book in as many hands as I can. That’s the sign of an excellent read and an impactful book.

*Quotes are from an Advanced Review Copy, and may change by publication.

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Courtney Summers:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

Book Review: The Dead I Know by Scot GardnerThe Dead I Know by Scot Gardner
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 3, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 208
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep and haunted by dreams he can’t explain and memories he can’t recover. Death doesn’t scare him—his new job with a funeral director may even be his salvation. But if he doesn’t discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up. In this dark and witty psychological drama about survival, Aaron finds that making peace with the dead may be easier than coming to terms with the living."I have never read a book more gripping, nor a book more triumphantly alive. I love how it haunts me still. I swear, I will never forget The Dead I Know." —John Marsden, author of Tomorrow, When the War Began

Book Review:

THE DEAD I KNOW is a short book at 200 pages, but the content of those 200 pages packs a pretty big emotional punch. THE DEAD I KNOW is honest about funerals, grief, and the sometimes gruesome things that can happen after one dies, but more than that, it’s a compelling look into the life of a teenage boy. Aaron Rowe hides more than nightmares that make him sleepwalk. His Mam has episodes where she loses her memories, and she’s started getting into dangerous situations, but he doesn’t want anyone to know what’s happening to her.

I liked Aaron quite a bit. He doesn’t like to talk much, doesn’t want to rely on anyone, and tries to do the best he can for Mam. I got the feeling he’s had trouble in school, because for some reason he starts working for John Barton, a funeral director, rather than attending school. Or maybe he graduated, I don’t know — I can’t recall an explanation of how he ended up with John. And what a character John Barton is. I wish there were a hundred more of him in YA: he’s quietly supportive, providing Aaron with a shoulder Aaron doesn’t know he needs. John is never judgmental, even when Aaron ends up in jail after some very odd coincidences.

Something else I liked about THE DEAD I KNOW is that it shows how people react to death. Aaron observes a couple of funerals, and it’s the people left behind that bother him more than the deceased. It’s difficult for him to see their emotions when he tries so hard to hide his. But beyond Aaron, I think it’s helpful for teens to see all the different ways death can affect someone.

Socialize with the author:

Scot Gardner:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard JacobsonPaper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Published by Candlewick Press on February 10, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
When forced to choose between staying with her guardian and being with her big brother, Ari chose her big brother. There’s just one problem—Gage doesn’t actually have a place to live.

When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been "couch surfing," staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.

Book Review:

I was drawn to PAPER THINGS because Ari and her brother Gage are homeless. I hadn’t yet seen this topic covered in a middle-grade book, and I was curious as to how the author would handle it. I admit, I don’t have any experience or real knowledge of homelessness, but I think the author did an incredible job of showing it in a way kid and adult readers can empathize with Ari.

Only eleven, Ari has already been through a lot. Her father died in Afghanistan; she never knew him. Her mother died a few years ago. Since then, she and her brother have stayed with her mother’s best friend, Janna. But Gage and Janna don’t get along, so when Gage decides to leave, Ari goes with him, because their mother wanted them to stay together.

But Gage didn’t tell Ari he didn’t really have an apartment for them. They spend the next several weeks staying with friends, in a shelter, even in a storage unit and a car. Ari’s smart, but being homeless starts to affect her studies, her friendships, and even her chances at getting into a middle school for gifted students. I liked that the author showed how things can snowball: Ari doesn’t have enough time at the library because she and Gage have to worry about where they’re spending the night. She leaves research books at one friend’s house, across town. Her teachers aren’t happy when she tries to do homework for one class in another. And so on. When Gage gets a reliable job, he still can’t get an apartment because of government red tape or needing a rental history. Etc.

I read PAPER THINGS in one sitting, and the book definitely got to me. I was rooting for Ari and Gage. I felt for Ari, who was torn between her brother and her love for him, and the security she had with Janna. I thought Ari was relatable, and while she was sometimes really mature for an eleven-year-old, she was smart and had also deal with a lot in life, so it wasn’t unrealistic. PAPER THINGS is written simply enough so that kids can understand it, but also with enough depth so that adults can enjoy it and get just as much out of it.

Socialize with the author:

Jennifer Richard Jacobson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Book Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. HensleyRites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Published by HarperTeen on September 9, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

Book Review:

RITES OF PASSAGE kept me up all night until I finished it. This book took me on a thrilling, emotional ride, and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Sam “Mac” McKenna can’t turn down a dare, and that’s what lands her at Denmark Military Academy. She’s one of the first ever girls at the DMA, and might be the only one tough enough to make it through the year. Because there’s a group at the DMA that doesn’t want girls to sully the school’s reputation, and they’re willing to do anything, even extreme hazing and abuse, to get Sam to quit.

But they don’t know who they’re dealing with, because Sam is one of the strongest YA protagonists I’ve read in a while. I loved that she wouldn’t give up, even when almost everyone was against her, including her own family. I liked that she thought about the girls who would come after her, that they would need her success as an example to keep going themselves. I loved that she knew she could survive.

There are some hints of romance, which I wasn’t fond of at first, but I liked the way those threads were resolved. I do wish more had been included about Sam’s family, because Amos was so important to her, as was her father’s approval. I got the impression her dad was a larger than life military guy, and I was curious about him.

RITES OF PASSAGE is a gritty, tough, sometimes hard to read YA book. It’s the type of book I wish there were more of!

Socialize with the author:

Joy N. Hensley:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Book Review: Treasure by Rebekah WeatherspoonTreasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Published by Bold Strokes Books on October 14, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 230
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Her sister’s bachelorette party is the highlight of a miserable year for Alexis Chambers, but once her bridesmaid’s dress is packed away, she’s back to coping with her life as a once popular athlete and violinist turned loner and the focus of her parents’ disappointment. She isn’t expecting much from her freshman year of college until she finds herself sharing a class with Treasure, the gorgeous stripper from her sister’s party.

Trisha Hamilton has finally gotten the credits and the money together to transfer to a four-year university. Between classes, studying, and her job as a stripper, she has little time for a social life, until she runs into the adorably shy baby butch from the club. Trisha can’t seem to hide her feelings for Alexis, even when Trisha discovers what she has been through, but will Alexis have the strength to be just as fearless about their new love?

Book Review:

You know how sometimes you want a book to go on and on? Because you’re in love with the characters, their relationship, and the story? TREASURE was one of those books for me.

Very rarely do I like a romantic relationship; I tend to be extremely critical of relationships in young adult and new adult. But Alexis and Trisha were adorable and realistic. That’s ultra important for me. Yeah, there’s some lust at first sight, which is understandable because they meet when Tricia gives Alexis a lap dance. Then they meet again when they’re in the same computer science class. But rather than jump on each other immediately, they become friends, have crushes, and then do the dirty.

TREASURE is, right now, a rare book. It’s F/F, has two diverse characters, and is new adult. Trisha is balancing life as a stripper (to pay the bills/help her mother) and starting a computer science program. Alexis is dealing with a tragic event in her past and learning who she is, independent of what her parents want for her. They’re both figuring out the relationship thing, as this is the first for each of them.

I also enjoyed Rebekah Weatherspoon’s writing. TREASURE reads very smoothly, and I was halfway through the book before I realized it. I liked that she didn’t use euphemisms for body parts, although there were a couple of times that word choices pulled me out of the scene. But I’d rather have that than be subjected to “hot rod of love” type of terms.

So I’m basically writing a love letter to this book, but I really, really enjoyed TREASURE. I hope the author writes more F/F new adult books, because we need them! Especially books that have realistic, developed relationships with well-rounded characters.

Socialize with the author:

Rebekah Weatherspoon:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 327
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven?

It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that's as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl's journey through life's challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

Book Review:

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD isn’t my typical sort of book, but I had read a couple of reviews praising it, and I had also checked out the first few letters and thought I might enjoy it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish the book, and usually I have to finish books. I made it to page 74 before I said no more.

Here’s why I couldn’t get into the book:

–The idea of the “love letters.” I didn’t really see any point for Laurel to be writing love letters to famous dead people. Yes, it’s a neat idea at first, and probably what attracted a lot of people, myself included, to the book. But 99% of the letters are identical. Laurel starts off with “Dear _____,” then launches into a boring monologue about her day, complete with dialogue and misplaced purple prose descriptions. Most of the time, I forgot I was reading a letter. The epistolary format just didn’t work for me, especially when Laurel educated the dead person about their own life. She actually told Judy Garland and Janis Joplin what their childhoods were like. And the subjects of the letters? I can’t see a lot of teens knowing who many of these people are, such as Mister Ed or River Phoenix.

–Laurel had no personality for me. I didn’t care about her at all, and I couldn’t connect with her. In LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD, she’s just starting high school, but at times, I could have sworn she was 10 because of her innocence and naivety. Laurel is mourning her dead sister, May, but instead of showing us how broken up she is, the author just tells us. I am aware that people mourn in different ways, but I never felt any grief from Laurel.

–Within the 74 pages I read, Laurel smokes, drinks, flashes people, sneaks out, and watches her friends steal alcohol. I’m no prude, and I like when teens exhibit realistic behavior in young adult books, but I thought this was a bit much.

–I had no idea where LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD was going. Usually I get a good sense of where a book is headed, but here, I had no idea, and I like to know the plot’s general direction. I acknowledge that I didn’t finish the book and maybe a better story showed up later, but I shouldn’t have to wait until the middle or end for something to happen. A book needs to keep my interest, and LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD did not.

–The writing. I cannot imagine a freshman writing something like this: “I liked everything about it. I liked waiting in line with everyone. I liked that the girl in front of me had red curls on the back of her head that you could tell she curled herself. And I liked the thin crinkle of the plastic when I opened the wrapper. I liked how every bite made a falling-apart kind of crunch (p. 8).” That quote is about buying a Nutter Butter. A NUTTER BUTTER, people.

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is a book that just didn’t work for me. I wanted to like it, and I tried to read it, but I could not get into it.

Socialize with the author:

Ava Dellaira:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Shameless by Nina Lemay

Book Review: Shameless by Nina LemayShameless by Nina Lemay
Published by Self-Published on August 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: Author, Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
Girls like me don’t get happy endings.

I know what I am. At worst a cliché, at best a cautionary tale. I put an international border between me and my past, only to wind up working in a low-end titty bar. Even my excuse is as lame as it gets: I’m paying for college, getting my art degree from Montreal’s most prestigious school. Although some days it becomes confusing: am I just a student who moonlights as a stripper, or a stripper who masquerades as a student?

But the inevitable happens and my two lives collide. And now there’s one other person who knows both the quiet, antisocial Hannah and the sensual, shameless Alicia. One person who keeps my secret.

He’s beautiful, he’s sophisticated. He comes from the other side of life, the one where I’m not wanted or accepted. But he calls me la petite Américaine, and his hot, hot hands on my skin promise me things I long ago gave up on.

The problem? He teaches my Classic Photography class.

shameless by nina lemay blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for SHAMELESS by Nina Lemay. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

The summary for SHAMELESS drew me in. A pessimist stripping to pay her way through college? A girl who gets the shock of her life when a guy she gave a lap dance to shows up as her photography professor? Yum! I like some “forbidden” relationships, and this one has two. I also liked the cover, since I could see Hannah as the girl on the cover. Photography plays a big role in SHAMELESS, so I think the cover style was a great choice.

For the most part, I enjoyed SHAMELESS. I liked Hannah. She always sees the worst in things, expects bad things to happen, and doesn’t glamorize her life as a stripper. It’s just something she’s doing to pay for school, and yeah, she recognizes that’s a huge cliche. Too bad. She likes financial independence. I liked that she wanted to take advantage of men looking at her, and that she was shameless about her job choice.

Hannah’s not in a great place in her life. I would say it’s possible she’s depressed, just going through the motions. Until Emmanuel shows up, in the club and then at school. The two are drawn together, and while Hannah is at first worried Emmanuel will spill her secret, he shows her otherwise when he rescues her from a bad clubbing night. I did think their relationship progressed very quickly. Emmanuel is an incredibly sweet guy, and I could tell he wanted the best for Hannah. I could see why she liked him, but I wasn’t sure why Emmanuel was drawn to Hannah. I mean, Emmanuel offers to do some crazy things so they can date without it causing trouble, but I’m still not sure why. A bit more development for both Hannah and Emmanuel would have really helped me believe in their relationship, but once I got past that, I did enjoy seeing them together.

Some of the things that happened are maybe a tad unbelievable, but I can’t really go into those without spoiling way too much of the book. So, to be incredibly vague, I could sort of believe what happened, but I would have believed it a lot more if Hannah’s tragic past had been … more tragic. She’s hiding a big secret about why she thinks most guys hate women, but when the reveal came, I expected it to be … bigger.

SHAMELESS is set in Canada, Montreal to be exact. I appreciated a book set outside of the U.S., and enjoyed the author’s descriptions for Montreal and especially Quebec City. I do wish an explanation for a couple French Canadian terms had been provided, but a quick trip to Urban Dictionary helped out.

I think what I liked most about SHAMELESS was that Hannah didn’t let anyone change her. You don’t like that she’s a stripper? Fuck you. I absolutely loved her final photography project, and what it shows about others’ attitudes regarding stripping and women. And thanks to the author’s good descriptions, I could actually “see” each photo.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author nina lemayNina Lemay is a YA writer by day and author of sinfully twisted New Adult…well, also by day. She loves all things dark and edgy and never tires of tormenting her characters. While Nina is a fan of all things scary, Gothic, and fantastic, she doesn’t shy away from a gritty contemporary romance when the muse strikes. She lives in Montreal, a city that never fails to inspire, with her partner and her dog.
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– leeanna