Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger

Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger
Published by Tendril Press on March 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 346
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Seventeen year old Marta Selbryth realizes her dream of becoming a professional dancer when the Intermountain Ballet Company in Billings, Montana invites her to join their 1957 season. As Marta's new life unfolds, she must learn to face not only the successes of dancing in the corps de ballet, but the challenges and setbacks that might crush the dream she's had for so long.

After a couple of mishaps, Marta settles into life in a boarding house located near the ballet company. Her landlady, Mrs. B., is friendly, reduces her rent when Marta's offers to bake for the boarder and later allows her to use the basement as a practice studio. The two male boarders are supportive; Carol, a fellow boarder, ignores her.

Marta spends her free time practicing when she's not spending time with her new friends Lynne and Bartley,her fellow corps dancers. Their time together becomes an important lifeline through their first year.

Madame Cosper, the artistic director, is a demanding woman. Marta begins their association poorly when she makes a disastrous choice. Expecting expulsion, Marta receives a second chance in the form of dancing the unpopular character roles during the fall and winter performances.Marta determines to dance every role with confidence in hopes of proving to Madame that she's up for every challenge.

Steve, a young college man and a reporter, spots Marta when he's assigned to write an article about ballet for the local paper. He's attracted to her and begins his pursuit.Over the months ahead, he becomes her tour guide of the area and attempts to convince Marta to be his girl. But her steadfast focus is ballet and some of her adventures with him lead to problems withMadame Cosper.

Shortly after Christmas, everything changes for Marta, Bartley andSteve. Significant events permanently influence their lives. Each must deal with exhilaration and heartbreak as well as frustration and changes that test their ability to cope.

Book Review:

In 84 RIBBONS, Marta’s dream of becoming a professional ballerina comes true. But realizing her dream comes with a number of challenges, from living on her own to struggling with weight and injuries. The book, set in the late 1950s, follows Marta’s journey, and manages to be both nostalgic and relatable.

I generally like books set in the ballet world, so 84 RIBBONS was a good book for me. But it’s more than just a ballet book. Yes, Marta’s dream is to dance professionally and she does, but this book is also a coming of age story. Issues that were ignored at the time, such as depression and eating disorders, are worked into the book. Marta deals with a lot in her first year of independence, and I think a lot of readers will find something to relate to even if they have no interest in ballet.

If you do have an interest in ballet, then I think you’d really enjoy 84 RIBBONS. It’s a realistic look into the struggle of making it dancing professionally, including the pain, blood, sweat, and tears required, as well as the devotion to perfection. Marta doesn’t have an easy ride at the Intermountain Ballet Company, but she’s determined to prove herself and succeed.

At first I didn’t realize the book was set in the 1950s, but as I read more, I liked the time period. A few of Marta’s problems come from not having the type of communication we do today, and it was a nice throwback to remember how people used to have to do things. Life’s a lot different when you don’t have a smartphone to find out information or get you out of an emergency.

The 1950s time period also allowed for a slow-burn romance between Marta and Steve, a journalism major. Steve tried to kiss Marta their first time out, and she pushed him away because it wasn’t a date in her mind, and because she wasn’t ready for that. I liked how Marta stood up for herself with Steve, because let me tell you, that boy pushes a bit, and she doesn’t give in when she doesn’t want to. Their relationship is far from perfect, but I found it way more believable than a lot of the relationships in YA fiction.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but boy did it leave me wanting more of Marta’s story.

Socialize with the author:

Paddy Eger:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Adagio (The Company #1) by Delancey Stewart

Book Review: Adagio (The Company #1) by Delancey StewartAdagio by Delancey Stewart
Series: The Company #1
Published by Self-Published on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 205
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
The world of professional ballet is built on illusion. The illusion of perfection. The illusion of effortless beauty. The illusion of eternal love.

But backstage, few members of the Union Ballet Company suffer from such illusions.

Anna Glaser has dreamed of nothing but dancing professionally her entire life. And when she’s finally offered a position with Union, she takes it, giving little more than a passing thought to what she might have to give up in exchange. But Sebastian Kaplan, the director who gave her the chance, won’t forget so easily.

When Anna meets Cain, who has been dubbed by the local media as Union’s most eligible bachelor, she realizes that making a deal with the devil might mean that Heaven — in the form of a gorgeous dark-haired man — is forever out of her reach.

Dancers at Union know that something that glitters and shines under the stage lights can still be vicious and evil when the lights go down.

Adagio is the first episode in the series The Company – an engaging drama-filled ride through the darker parts of the ballet and the lives of those who live to dance.

*This book contains explicit content and is suitable for readers over 17

adagio blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for ADAGIO by Delancey Stewart. If you’ve been around here for a while, you might know I like ballet books, so I was excited to check this one out.

The tour is hosted by Xpresso Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide givewaway.

Book Review:

ADAGIO dives into the dark aspects of ballet within the opening pages. At her audition to dance with the Union Ballet Company, the director offers her a private audition to show she really belongs. Sebastian wants to know how far she’ll go to dance, if she will do anything necessary. Anna jumps at the chance to make her dreams come true, but later wonders if she did the wrong thing, and what Sebastian will want in return.

Anna lives to dance. The order and devotion required to succeed keep away the nightmares and problems in her past. But when she joins Union, Sebastian’s manipulations, company politics, and a possible romance with a fellow dancer shake up everything. Suddenly, dance isn’t the refuge it’s always been. Sebastian pushes Anna almost to her breaking point, but not everyone is content to watch him be a controlling bastard.

There’s a lot going on in ADAGIO, more than just Anna’s dealings with Sebastian and her romance with Cain. I think some of the side stories were unnecessary, and took focus away from really developing Anna and Cain, and their relationship. For example, Anna was taken advantage of in the past, which has made her uncomfortable around men. The first time she tries to be with Cain, she can’t go through with it. Once he learns why, Cain is super understanding, is willing to wait, and wants to help Anna get over her past. But it doesn’t take very long for Anna to practically jump Cain, which I found a tad unrealistic. Otherwise, I thought the relationship between the two was really sweet, and I liked the little things Cain did, like buy groceries and make sure she got home safe every night.

At 205 pages, ADAGIO is a quick read. I like books set in the ballet world, so this was good for me. I read it in one sitting, because I wanted to know what would happen with controlling Sebastian, to see if Anna would succumb or triumph. I also wanted to “see” the ballet the company works towards putting on, a steampunk version of Coppélia. I think there’s a good balance of dance life and real life in ADAGIO, and it’s a good start to a series.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

delancey stewartDelancey Stewart writes contemporary romance.

Stewart has lived on both coasts, in big cities and small towns. She’s been a pharmaceutical rep, a personal trainer and a direct sales representative for a French wine importer. But she has always been a writer first.

A military spouse and the mother of two small boys, her current job titles include pirate captain, monster hunter, Lego assembler and story reader. She tackles all these efforts at her current home outside Washington D.C.
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Buy: Amazon

– leeanna

Book Review: UnWritten by Chelsea M. Cameron

Book Review: UnWritten by Chelsea M. CameronUnWritten by Chelsea M. Cameron
Published by Self-Published on July 10, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 308
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
Blair Walton isn't your average curvaceous tattooed children's librarian. She's also one half of bestselling romance author, Scarlet Rose. Along with her BFF Raine, she spends her nights writing books so steamy, she's afraid they would shock her Southern conservative grandmother to death . . . if she knew about them. That's why she and Raine write in secret.

On deadline for their latest book and out of ideas, Raine suggests (demands) that Blair find a guy and "do some research." Declan Bennet has all the qualifications: He's British, looks fabulous in a suit, has glorious blue eyes and gets bonus points for being an amazing single dad to his adorable son, Drake. But what starts out as a research project quickly turns into something much more. And Blair's not the only one with secrets.

unwritten blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for UNWRITTEN by Chelsea M. Cameron. The tour is hosted by Inkslinger PR. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review, so make sure to check that out.

Book Review:

Romance isn’t typically my genre of choice, but sometimes a book grabs my attention, usually because of the author or summary. The idea behind UNWRITTEN is what pulled me in: Blair is a children’s librarian by day, and an author by night. She and her best friend, Raine, write steamy novels together.

UNWRITTEN starts off with this sentence: “What’s another word for [ladyparts]?” (My edit). You can’t go wrong with a book that starts like that!

As a wannabe author, I couldn’t want to dive into Blair’s secret life. She and Raine are having trouble with their current work in progress. They’re under deadline stress, but are stuck. Convinced they need fresh inspiration, Raine pushes Blair to date the cute, single dad that’s started bringing his son to the library. But what’s supposed to be a simple fling soon turns into something more. But are Blair and Declan ready for that something more?

I read UNWRITTEN as just the right time: I needed book that would cheer me up, make me feel good while I was reading. I blazed through it in a few hours, and wanted my own Declan when I finished. The romance between Blair and Declan is swoon-worthy, and I don’t say that very often. Declan was a great love interest, romantic and considerate, and oh yeah, amazing in bed. I don’t like kids, but his son was adorable, and I laughed when Blair thought about how to turn him into an even better reader.

I also liked the super strong friendship between Blair and Raine. Come to think of it, I’d like my own Raine, too. They often joked that they were platonic life partners, because they were always there for each other, and because they knew each other so well. The banter between them, especially when they were writing or brainstorming, reminded me of myself and a writing buddy. I was also happy that the author put so much of writing into UNWRITTEN — from writer’s block to deadline stress to constantly coming up with new ideas to having characters talk inside your head. Yup.

There’s a lot of humor in UNWRITTEN, as well as tons of pop culture and music references. But it’s not all fun and games, as Blair does have to deal with an unexpected tragedy. I loved seeing Raine and Declan stand by her, offering support and reassuring her that not everyone reacts the same to bad things.

I would have liked to see a bit more of the happily ever after, but overall, I quite enjoyed UNWRITTEN. It’s a stand-a-lone, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a novella about Blair and Declan, or a book for Raine, as I’m sure she has her own story to tell.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

Chelsea M. Cameron is a YA/NA New York Times/USA Today Best Selling author from Maine. Lover of things random and ridiculous, Jane Austen/Charlotte and Emily Bronte Fangirl, red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader and world’s worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, singing in the car and tweeting (this one time, she was tweeted by Neil Gaiman). She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maine, Orono that she promptly abandoned to write about the people in her own head. More often than not, these people turn out to be just as weird as she is.

Her New Adult Contemporary Romance titles include My Favorite Mistake, which has been bought by Harlequin along with a sequel, Deeper We Fall and Faster We Burn (April 20, 2013).

Her Young Adult books include Nocturnal, Nightmare and Neither, the first three books in The Noctalis Chronicles. The fourth and final book, Neverend will be out in 2013. Whisper, the first in The Whisper Trilogy is also available, with the second book in the series, Silence and the final book, Listen coming out in 2014.
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Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: Breaking the Reins (Breaking #1) by Juliana Haygert

Book Review: Breaking the Reins (Breaking #1) by Juliana HaygertBreaking the Reins by Juliana Haygert
Series: Breaking #1
Published by Self-Published on August 14, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 401
Format: eBook
Source: Author
Goodreads
3 Stars
Horses, mansions, tea parties, and lies are twenty-year-old Hannah Taylor’s life. To others, her family and her relationship with Eric is perfect. But she knows the truth. She lives it.

After a fire takes her grandma's life and kills her horse, Hannah's immaculate life spirals out of control. Her father disapproves of her decision to run her grandma’s ranch instead of focusing solely on learning the family business; Animal Control brings her Argus, a mistreated horse that she can't turn away even though she's not ready for another horse; and her boyfriend, Eric Bennett, a world famous polo player, becomes possessive and authoritarian. Despite her best efforts to disguise it, Hannah grows wary of him.

Then, Leonardo Fernandes struts onto the polo scene. A cocky rookie with a messy life of his own, he’s drawn to Hannah and isn’t afraid of showing it, even when Eric makes it clear she is his and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way. Hannah suffers for Eric’s jealousy. The abuse only gets worse when Leo steals the title of best polo player in the world from Eric.

But the title isn’t enough for Leo. He wants Hannah too, and she can’t deny her attraction to him either. Somehow, she must find a way to break free from abusive Eric before he breaks every bone in her body.

Book Review:

BREAKING THE REINS was quite difficult to read at times, due to the main character being in an abusive relationship. Now, I did like that the author explored being in an abusive relationship, and the possible thoughts/excuses one might make, but I thought she went a little too far with the boyfriend’s behavior. But more about that later.

BREAKING THE REINS is an apt title for this book, as there are three characters who are struggling. Hannah’s stuck in a few ways: she’s inherited her grandmother’s ranch, a property her father and boyfriend want her to sell; she’s in that abusive relationship with boyfriend Eric; and she’s trying to rehabilitate an abused horse. Argus, the abused horse, is scared of people, but unless he makes some progress, he’s likely to be put down. And Leo, a super hot Brazilian polo player, wants to be Hannah’s rescuer, but he’s hiding some big secrets which could come between them.

I mostly liked this book. The horse bits weren’t 100% accurate, which was a disappointment, but I got so into Hannah’s story that I was able to mostly overlook that. I got so into Hannah’s story because for a lot of the book, it was realistic to me. I knew something was off about Eric almost immediately, and it’s never easy for me to read about a character that can’t see it, or tries to rationalize what’s going on. Did I want Hannah to stand up to Eric and leave him, especially once he started hitting her? Hell yes. Did I understand the excuses she made to herself to stay with him? Hell yes.

It’s impossible for me to explain why I thought Eric was a bit too out there without spoiling a majority of the book. So I’ll settle for saying that I think the author tried to make him too horrific, too over the top. Even before Eric was too much, he made my stomach turn, so I really wish she hadn’t gone as far as she did, because some of the things Eric supposedly did were just unbelievable. That affected my thoughts for the book as a whole, taking it down a star for me.

I do think BREAKING THE REINS is a good introduction to Juliana Haygert’s work, and I would read more of her books.

Socialize with the author:

Juliana Haygert:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

Book Review: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. CarlesonThe Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on February 11, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

Book Review:

I started reading THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER while I was waiting on an appointment. I got so into the book that I barely noticed I ended up waiting for over two hours. I was almost disappointed to go to the appointment, because by that point, I would rather have kept reading!

Laila doesn’t know what’s true or false anymore. There, in an unknown third world country, she was raised as royalty. Her father was the king, and her younger brother the prince. Here, she lives in a tiny apartment outside of Washington D.C. with her mother and brother, rescued by the U.S. government after her father was killed in a coup. THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER is her story of discovering what really happened there, how it affects what happens here, and what her future is.

On one hand, the book is an easy read, full of American experiences from prom to making out in cars to Starbucks trips. But don’t let that fool you, because Laila’s story is much deeper than that. Yes, she has more freedom than she’s ever had, and is getting to do things she never would have done there, but is the cost of that freedom worth the truth? Is it worth learning that your father was actually a dictator, and that dissenters were tortured under his rule?

THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER is a book that made me think, and Laila’s story will stay with me for a while. I think the book does a really good job exploring the power of one person, and how decisions big and small can influence events. My only criticism, and the reason I rated the book 4 stars instead of 5 stars, is that I almost missed the big twist. I understand why it was written the way it was, but I wish more time had been paid to the big event, considering some of the detail that went into less important passages. At the end, I was a bit confused and wanted to know exactly what happened, and what might happen in the future.

Socialize with the author:

J.C. Carleson:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth MaxwellHappily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell
Published by Touchstone on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
In this witty, sexy tale, an erotic novelist meets the fictional hero of her most recent book in real life, and must decide whether she wants to get him back between the pages—or between her sheets.At forty-six, Sadie Fuller’s life isn’t exactly romantic. A divorced, overweight, somewhat sexually frustrated mother of an eleven-year-old, she lives in the suburbs, shops the big box stores, makes small talk with her small-minded neighbors, and generally leads a quiet life. But while her daughter is at school, or when Sadie is up late at night, she writes erotic fiction under the name KT Briggs.

Then, during a routine shopping trip, Sadie runs into someone familiar…too familiar, in fact. She encounters an incredibly handsome man exactly like the one in her imagination—and her latest novel. Is Aidan Hathaway really one of her characters? And if so, what is he doing in Target? As Sadie tries to negotiate this strange new world, her eyes begin to open to romantic possibilities in places she never dreamed of looking... places where Happily Ever After might not be so far-fetched after all.

Book Review:

HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a book that’s just fun to read. When I started it, I was waiting for an oil change, and thanks to this book, I didn’t realize that I waited over two hours for my car to be done. Yay for Sadie and her shenanigans!

A book about writing a book, HAPPILY EVER AFTER mashes several genres together, from contemporary romance to paranormal romance and women’s fiction. As a writer and book blogger, I appreciated the little details about Sadie’s career, including calculating word counts, character backstories, and advanced review copies.

While her neighborhood sleeps, Sadie, aka K. T. Briggs, writes erotic fiction. K. T. Briggs is glamorous, confident, a sex goddess. Sadie is a single parent, a bit overweight, and has panic attacks. Together, both personas make up the “real” Sadie. Sadie is a great main character. Several times I found myself thinking the same thing she thought, and I think a lot of readers will find something to identify with or to like about her.

Who hasn’t wondered what might happen if a book’s characters suddenly appeared in real life? That’s exactly what happens to Sadie, and after a quick freakout, she gets down to business. It’s not easy to figure out why Aidan, the sex-on-a-stick hero of her work in progress is at Target. In the baby aisle, of all places. But Sadie does her best to solve the mystery, bringing the reader along on the crazy adventure.

I originally wanted to read HAPPILY EVER AFTER because I liked the hook of Sadie writing erotic fiction, and then having to deal with her characters in real life. Once I got into the book, though, I enjoyed it for more reasons than just that. Sadie’s realistic voice, her devotion to her daughter, her desire to help her characters fulfill their dreams… it all added up to a touching book.

Socialize with the author:

Elizabeth Maxwell:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Fighting for the Edge (Edge #3) by Jennifer Comeaux

Book Review: Fighting for the Edge (Edge #3) by Jennifer ComeauxFighting for the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux
Series: Edge #3
Published by Astraea Press on November 5, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance, Sports
Pages: 305
Format: eBook
Source: Author, Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Two friends. Two dreams. One night that changes everything…

Ice dancer Aubrey London scoffs at romance. She’s focused on winning a medal at the upcoming Olympics and uses that as her excuse to avoid serious relationships. But when she and longtime friend Chris Grayden are thrown together by unforeseen circumstances, Aubrey finds herself questioning everything she's ever known about love, complicating her life both on and off the ice.

Pairs skater Emily Petrov embraces romance. She and her husband Sergei still act like honeymooners two years after their wedding. As Emily’s coach, Sergei provides constant support while she prepares to challenge for gold at the Olympics. But Sergei’s support might not be enough to help Emily overcome the one challenge she never saw coming.

With the Games only weeks away, Emily and Aubrey are on the verge of realizing their dreams. But one snowy, stormy night sets in motion a series of events that will test them in ways they never imagined, giving them more to fight for than Olympic medals.

Today on the blog tour for FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE by Jennifer Comeaux. The tour is hosted by YA Bound Book Tours and you can check out all the stops here. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review.

Book Review:

FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE is the third and last book in the Edge trilogy. However, it stands alone quite well, and you don’t have to have read the other two for this one to make sense. It follows figure skaters Emily and Aubrey on their journey to the Olympics. There’s plenty of skating and romance, and I’d say it’s the perfect book to read if you’re looking for more figure skating or Olympic action.

Emily plans to retire after the Olympics, and so this is her and her partner Chris’s last chance for a gold medal in pairs figure skating. Guided by her coach and husband, Sergei, they’re ready to conquer the world … until the unexpected happens. I’m not going to say what happens, but I liked how Emily handled the challenge, refusing to give up something she had worked most of her life for. Her relationship with Sergei was portrayed realistically; it was good to see a couple after marriage without them fighting or ready to break up.

Aubrey also plans to retire from ice dancing after the Olympics. For the majority of her career, she’s sworn off romance, not wanting it to get in the way of her dreams. But when she and Chris end up sharing an apartment, she starts to question herself. Chris is such a great guy: sweet, caring, nerdy, athletic… really, the list goes on and on. I laughed when he asked who would win in a showdown: Tweety Bird or Chewbacca. Aubrey’s dislike of romance and relationships is strongly influenced by her parents’ relationship, and I thought she worked through that realistically. Not always in the most logical way, but that’s real.

The book does switch between Emily’s first person perspective and Aubrey’s third person, which is a tad confusing at the start. I liked Aubrey’s voice, and so I would have also liked her sections to be told from her POV, which would have made the switch between the two girls less jarring. I also would have liked more of Aubrey and her partner’s routines described, so I could have gotten a better feel for ice dancing. But those are my only complaints.

FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE was a feel good book for me. I had fun reading it, and was immersed in the characters and their quest for perfection on the ice. Although I haven’t read the rest of the series, I wasn’t lost at all, and now I want to go back and read Emily and Sergei’s story from the beginning. I felt like the author really knew what she was talking about with figure skating, and I really liked that there was so much of it in the book! Sometimes books that are about sports barely mention the sport, so I was happy to see skating actually have a lot of page time in the book.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest is void where prohibited. Entrants must be 13 or else have parent or guardian’s permission to enter. Winners will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner’s name will be selected. Winning entries will be verified for authenticity.

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

jennifer comeaux authorJennifer Comeaux is a tax accountant by day, writer by night. There aren’t any ice rinks near her home in south Louisiana, but she’s a diehard figure skating fan and loves to write stories of romance set in the world of competitive skating. One of her favorite pastimes is travelling to competitions, where she can experience all the glitz and drama that inspire her writing. Jennifer loves to hear from readers! Visit jennifercomeaux.blogspot.com for contact information and to learn more about her books.
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FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE buy links: Amazon | B&N
LIFE ON THE EDGE: Amazon | Goodreads
EDGE OF THE PAST: Amazon | Goodreads

– leeanna

Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth ClarkFreakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on October 22, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
4 Stars
From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy's razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

Book Review:

I’m not a fan of verse novels, because I just can’t read poetry or anything resembling it, but I took a chance with FREAKBOY, and wow, am I glad I did. If you’re considering checking this book out, try to read it in one setting. I think it packs the biggest punch that way, because you’re really immersed in the narratives of Brendan, Vanessa, and Angel.

FREAKBOY is mainly Brendan’s story, showing the confusion and pain he feels at being different, and the struggle of trying to hide those feelings. Brendan’s not sure what wanting to be a girl means … he doesn’t want to wear skirts, but he’s envious of Rapunzel and her long, long hair. He likes sex with his girlfriend, so he’s not gay … right?

Brendan’s passages are accompanied by ones from Vanessa, his girlfriend, and Angel, a transgender girl who volunteers at an LGBTQ center for youth. Vanessa’s narrative gave me the chance to see Brendan’s confusion from the other side, as Vanessa really does love him, and is hurt and confused herself when Brendan starts pulling away from her. Angel was my favorite, though. I loved how confident she is in herself, and how positive she is, even though she’s been through some terrible stuff.

I also want to give the author a shoutout for using World of Warcraft as a way for Brendan to be his true self. Video games also provide a way for Brendan and Angel to bond, and to show Brendan that maybe he isn’t a freak.

“Virtual me has long legs,
blue hair,
a killer body.
It’s as close as I can get
to being a girl.

I’m Larissa.
I’m Larissa and
I can kick ass
and I can lose myself
in the anonymous world
of online gaming (p. 206).”

FREAKBOY doesn’t give a lot of concrete answers, which is usually something that bugs me. I’m the type of reader that wants an answer and conclusion to everything, but here, I didn’t mind the open-endedness. It fit the style of the book, and gives readers something to think about. I think it’s an important book, because while the number gay and lesbian YA books is slowly increasing, there are not as many trans books.

Socialize with the author:

Kristin Elizabeth Clark:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Secret Lies by Amy Dunne

Book Review: Secret Lies by Amy DunneSecret Lies by Amy Dunne
Published by Bold Strokes Books on December 16, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
Would you face your biggest fear, to save the one you love?

Nicola Jackson escapes from her abuser, only to realize she has no one to turn to and nowhere to go. In a twist of fate, she accidentally bumps into Jenny O’Connor, the most popular girl at school. They strike up an unlikely friendship. As their trust in each other develops, they share their darkest secrets, and their relationship blossoms into a secret romance.

Jenny loves Nicola, but she is fearful that if their secret relationship is discovered, she might lose her family, friends, and her seemingly perfect life.

Nicola confronts her abuser and blackmails him to leave for good, but things go terrifyingly wrong. Jenny is left with a life-changing dilemma: should she face her fear and accept who she is, or let Nicola take the blame and pretend their relationship never happened?

Book Review:

I’m really torn on SECRET LIES. On one hand, I liked the relationship between the two main characters, and also liked that their love gave them both the strength to face their demons. But on the other hand, I didn’t believe how quickly that relationship developed, with Jenny bringing Nicola into her house after knowing her for a day, and then “I love you” being said within two weeks.

I did like how the author handled Jenny’s character. Jenny hurts herself so she can feel the pain she can’t express, but has already realized she’s in an unhealthy cycle. At the start of the book, Jenny is in counseling, and I liked that she was proactive and wanted to help herself. I also felt for Nicola, who has endured years and years of vicious abuse at the hands of her step-father. It was nice to see that neither one of them judged the other for their problems, but tried to help and be supportive.

I was also happy to see sex scenes in this book. One of my big peeves with young adult books is they often focus just on kissing and unresolved sexual tension which is unrealistic, so it was awesome to see two girls experimenting and going beyond kissing.

But … the speed of their relationship. Yeah, I know teens can move quickly with relationships, but it was just so awkwardly done between these two that I couldn’t buy how they met and were attracted to each other. Nicola runs into Jenny in the street, Jenny invites Nicola to her house to fix a scraped palm, and after spending the whole day together watching movies, Nicola ends up staying at Jenny’s house for the next few weeks.

Overall, I didn’t feel like SECRET LIES was a YA book. Jenny and Nicola are in their teens, but they talk and sometimes act much older. If the story had been about two girls in their twenties, and spent some more time getting to know each other, it would have felt more authentic to me.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Dunne:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Gated (Gated #1) by Amy Christine Parker

Book Review: Gated (Gated #1) by Amy Christine ParkerGated by Amy Christine Parker
Series: Gated #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on August 6, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Dystopian, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
A fast-paced, nerve-fraying contemporary thriller that questions loyalties and twists truths.

Appearances can be deceiving.

In the Community, life seems perfect. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pioneer invited Lyla’s family to join his group and escape the evil in the world. They were happy to be chosen, happy to move away from New York and start over in such an idyllic gated community. Now seventeen, Lyla knows that Pioneer is more than just their charismatic leader, he is their prophet . . . but his visions have grown dark.

Lyla is a loyal member of the Community, but a chance encounter with an outsider boy has her questioning Pioneer, the Community—everything. And if there’s one thing not allowed in the Community, it’s doubt. Her family and friends are certain in their belief. Lyla wishes she could feel the same. As Pioneer begins to manipulate his flock toward disaster, the question remains: Will Lyla follow them over the edge?

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand why anyone would join a cult. But Gated tells the story of the Community from the inside looking out, and from behind the gates things are not quite so simple. Amy Christine Parker’s beautiful writing creates a chilling, utterly unique YA story. Perfect for fans of creepy thrillers and contemporary fiction alike.

Book Review:

Lyla lives in Mandrodage Meadows with her family and the Community. They are under the strict but loving control of Pioneer, who has received visions of how and when the world will end. But Mandrodage Meadows is an anagram for Armageddon Meadows, and hidden in the innocent looking settlement is an underground shelter and an armory. Once the end of the world comes, only the Community will survive, safe in their underground refuge.

GATED starts off with Lyla and her friends at the shooting range, practicing for the day they’ll have to defend their Community. Lyla is reluctant to shoot to kill, but her friends and betrothed are not. The beginning sets the tone for the rest of the book, with Lyla starting to question her beliefs while others, including her parents, push her to obedience.

Although Lyla is seventeen, her voice reads a lot younger, which I think goes really well with the way she and her family live, obedient to Pioneer’s wishes. Notice I say obedience — GATED is a look inside the gates of a cult. One of the things I liked most about the book were the quotes at the top of each chapter. The quotes are by Pioneer at the start, but once Lyla starts to question her beliefs, the quotes switch to ones by well-known cult leaders such as Jim Jones and Charles Manson.

GATED is a fast but chilling read. There’s a scene where Pioneer uses footage from Hurricane Katrina and the earthquakes/tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia to manipulate his flock. He claims they all happened at the same time, and are evidence the end of the world is coming even faster than he was told. It’s a great way to show how easy it is to manipulate people who don’t have access to news, and how easily you can twist things to your own ends.

I think GATED is a good book for readers who haven’t read many other cult books. I’ve read a few, so Lyla’s story wasn’t entirely new to me. I do feel like the author did a good job with her character and exploring why a person would follow someone like Pioneer. But I wish more had been explained about Pioneer. What was his motivation? Why did he create the community? Why were the other families there? Etc.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Christine Parker:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna