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Zac & Mia by A. J. Betts: A Book Review.

I’ve read a lot of books about sick people–fiction, nonfiction, the grey space in between–but, I’ve also witnessed sickness. I’ve heard lungs catch and breathes stop. I’ve felt the weakness of atrophying muscles. I’ve seen the red of a central line being removed. You see, sickness is a monster and, for all the knowledge you can have about it, it is facing it first-hand or alongside another that makes the ultimate impact.

When I was selected through Netgalley to read and review Zac & Mia by A. J. Betts, I was prepared for a watered-down version of sickness. Authors often seem too wary of the “delicate and impressionable” minds of young adults to do stories of sickness any justice, and the stories and their readers suffer because of it. In short, I was expecting a pretty inaccurate and mildly insulting portrayal; however, I’m happy to admit that that was not what I found during my reading.

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Within the pages of Zac & Mia, I found something painful and broken, yet altogether believable. It would seem that, despite its packaging as a young adult novel and my own fears of encountering the usual “sick-lit” cliches, this book presents something that someone who knows sickness can read without scoffing. It is undeniably the work of someone who has been touched by sickness, so perhaps it is fitting then that I read all 306 pages of this book while visiting my own mother at UF Health Shands Hospital.

To set the scene, imagine the methodical clicking of a morphine pump, the white-noise hum of a television with the volume turned down low, the low hissing of air blowing through an old grate. Imagine the sharp scent of alcohol and sanitizers, the deceptive flickering of shadows gliding by the bottom of the door, the feel of worn leather sticking to your legs. Imagine bruised skin, shallow breathes, weary eyes, weak limbs, rough speech, painful movements, nurses’ interruptions, doctors’ sighs, and my mothers’ chronic inability to remain conscious.

If nothing else, the stage was set.

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Zac is the quintessential good guy from a farm town who had the bad luck of getting stuck with myeloid leukemia. He knows his odds–55% chance of living five years without relapse–and he knows the odds of his fellow cancer ward residents. What Zac doesn’t know if how to truly communicate with the only other person in the ward who is his age–a moody teenage girl named Mia.

Mia is the ultimate city girl, used to parties, formals, and hundreds of facebook friends; however, she doesn’t know how to deal with osteosarcoma, and she is not so keen to try when ignoring her condition and treatment seems to be going so well. If she’d just listen, she would realize that she has the best odds of them all–90% even on her worst day. But, how can numbers matter when you feel otherwise?

The collision course that Zac and Mia set out upon after their initial meeting is essentially a “slice of life” portrayal of living with and after sickness. There is chemistry and romance, but this is not a love story. There is sickness and poor health, but this is not a scientific depiction. There is hope and, at its heart, this is a brilliant story of survival, desire, and courage. However, the beauty and uniqueness of this story is truly in the details.

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It’s in the uncomfortable and awkward questions that nurses must ask and family will overhear. It’s in the tests that must be done and redone in fear of and preparation for recurrence. It’s in the fragile hope of a mother who does word puzzles by her son’s bedside and brings new patients’ family members’ a cup of tea. It’s in the complicated request of a mother to a doctor to save her girl in spite of everything. It’s in the comfort of an answering knock on the other side of a beige wall. It’s in the fear of impending doom and the struggle to find the will to fight.

It’s in the honesty with which Betts describes sickness. As someone who has watched over their mother from childhood, someone who has acted as a nurse and a doctor and a friend and a daughter, this book resonated in a way that many “sick-lit” novels do not and perhaps cannot. Despite the fact that I am not sick and my mother’s sickness seemingly involves everything except cancer, I found my kindred in Zac, Mia, and their creator. There was a familiarity in the story that was simultaneously upsetting and comforting.

On a scale of one to five, I award this book four stars because it was realistic, honest, and it approached sickness with a level of understanding that I can only compare to the works of Lurlene McDaniel. I could not, in good faith, award this book five stars because (*spoiler alert*) the number of time jumps quickly became annoying and mildly detracted from the movement of the plot, rather than speeding or propelling it along (*spoiler over*). Overall, I felt that it was a well-executed story that delved into sensitive subjects with care and compassion.

I do not agree with the comparisons to John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars or Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park because I feel like that is comparing apples to oranges. Green’s and Rowell’s works are amazing and I enjoyed reading them, truly; however, neither had the sheer authenticity and realism of this book. Perhaps that is something only someone who has been repeatedly touched by sickness can understand and appreciate though, and I do not know that the untouched will recognize or feel its resonance quite so clearly.

I would recommend Zac & Mia to anyone over the age of 14 who is interested in a truthful (yet still fictional) story that does not sugarcoat or glaze over the realities of sickness, mortality, and navigating life’s many plot twists. There are some mentions of topics of a sexual nature and the blunt discussion of death is nothing to dismiss, so I would be wary of allowing younger readers to delve into this novel unless their maturity level is particularly high for their age.

Anyone interested in learning more about A. J. Betts, her experience as a long-term hospital English teacher, her other literary works, and her guiding principles in life, should check out her facebook page, twitterwebsite, TEDx talk (“Why I Collect Shopping Lists”), this radio interview, and this article about “sick-lit.” Although I don’t know her personally, Betts seems like a wonderful person and I cannot wait to see what else she may write in the future. Cheers, readers!

(Disclaimer: I received this book through NetGalley’s Feed Your Readers program for Professional Readers in exchange for an honest review. The review I submitted to Netgalley has been posted here, verbatim.) 

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My YA Life in Book Titles Survey

Hello dearies! University has really been eating up my time, but I wanted to post another survey that I found over at The Perpetual Page Turner. Essentially, you think about who you were as a teenager and answer the questions in book titles of books you’ve read. Its really fun to do, especially if you have shelves of books or a Goodreads page to scroll through. Enjoy!

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You

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  • How would you describe your 16 year old self: Bright Purple: Color Me Confused
  • When You Looked Into The Mirror What Did You See: Uglies
  • Your 16 year old self’s outlook on life/motto: Can’t Get There From Here < I was totally a “glass half full” kind of chick. >
  • How You Think People Would Describe Your Personality: Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd 
  • Describe An Insecurity In High School: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
  • Describe Your Worst Trait As A Teen: Bad Connection < I was awful with people my own age. I’d babble about fanfiction, forums, and books, while everyone just stared…okay, maybe only some people stared. >
  • Describe the contents of your diary/journal: Freaks and Revelations
  • Your biggest Fear: Pushing the Limits < It sounds silly now, but I was terrified of doing too much, being too much, and going too far. Like, in anything and everything. >
  • You excelled at: How Not to Be Popular < Not a complaint, just a fact that I quite liked. >
  • You were always concerned about: The Rise and Fall of a Tenth Grade Social Climber < Please, someone, explain the social hierarchy of high school. I understood it about as well as a German listening to a Russian talk about tea. >
  • You Thought Your Life Was: Elsewhere <It was always about the future, yo! >

Love Life

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  • How would you sum up your high school love life: Along for the Ride < I was very much the “what in the world is going on” type. >
  • Describe your most serious boyfriend from high school: Empty
  • Describe your first kiss: Notes on a Near-Life Experience < It was one of those things where it kinda happened and it was kinda awful, so let’s just pretend it totally didn’t happen. >
  • Your philosophy on dating/love: Something Like Fate
  • Describe Your Worst Break Up: So Yesterday < Why relive a bad moment, I’m so over it haha. >

 

Family

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  • Your relationship with your mom as a teen: Allegiant < She was/is very much the “come to your defense without provocation” type. >
  • Your relationship with your dad as a teen: Just Ask < He was/is very much the “silent but supportive” type. >
  • Your relationship with a sibling: Far From You < He dropped off the map around the time I realized card stock was way cooler than construction paper, and that baking was better than cutting play food out of paper, so he’s missing out, man! I’m a genius with card stock and baking now. >
  • What you thought about your parents rules/parenting style: The Unwritten Rule

 

Friends

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  • Describe you and your best friend at 16: What Happened to Goodbye
  • Your Social Status: Dreamland < I was the listener or therapist among my friends, so I spent a lot of time trouncing about in my and other people’s heads. >
  • Describe Your Group Of Friends: Extras < Island of misfit toys, anyone? >

 

School

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  • Your Perception Of High School Upon Entering: Soul Harvest < Yeah, I wasn’t a fan. >
  • Your relationship with academics: Perfect Chemistry < Academia, I was good at…the other people participating in academia, not so much. >
  • Your Weekends Were: Ballads of Suburbia
  • If Your High School Life Was A Movie It would be called: I Am the Wallpaper < I was incredibly happy to be a wallflower socially and a teacher’s pet otherwise. >
  • A Class You Wish High School Would Have Offered: The Truth About Forever < Philosophy! >
  • Your Senior Year Was: My Most Excellent Year
  • Describe prom: It’s Kind of a Funny Story < Friends, annoying people, way too many seniors bringing freshman dates, and cinnamon twists. >
  • When High School Ended It Was: The Call of the Wild < College, baby! >

 

The Future

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  • How You Felt About The Prospect of College: Becoming Me
  • How You Thought Your Life Would Be At 20 (insert whatever age you are now): Come Alive < I was a bit over zealous and optimistic about how different life would be at this point. >

 

Your Life Now

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  • Describe Your Love Life: Fangirl < I’m in love with characters, places, and whole fandoms…my actual love life is radio silence. >
  • Describe The State Of Your Friendship With Your High School BFF: Chain Reaction < This refers to multiple people, so we’re all just adjusting in the fallout of growing up. >
  • Your Relationship With Your Parents Now: Every Day < Like most relationships, it’s one day at a time and a lot of conscious choices. >
  • Your Thoughts On Your High School Reunion (either if you had it or if it’s upcoming): The Time Machine < I’m not so sure how I feel about a reunion yet. I’m still in the “it’s over!” stage. >
  • Biggest Lesson You Learned In High School: Cracked Up to Be < Basically, in my experience, if you stop worrying about everything high school was supposed to be, and just experience it as it comes, then high school is a lot better. >
  • One Thing You WISHED You Had Learned: The Rules of Survival < It really frustrates me how much  schools fail to teach students when it comes to skills and everyday adult tasks. I was lucky with my parents’ practical teaching, but a lot of people weren’t. >
  • Advice You Wish You Could Have Given Your Teen Self: Chill: Stress-Reducing Techniques for a More Balanced, Peaceful You < Simmer down now, young one. >
  • Something You Could Learn From Your 16 Year Old Self: Honey, Baby, Sweetheart < For the love of all that is literary, I really need to remember to be nice and semi-affectionate to new and old people instead of just the people I’ve known forever. >

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Let me know some of your answers in the comments!

10 Books Reviews for 10 Days Until Fall Semester.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

5 out of 5

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Clary Fray has been officially introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters and nearly immediately she is faced with a comatose mother,  thoughts about Jace that don’t lend well to her new knowledge that they’re siblings separated long ago, and a villainous and possibly insane father named Valentine. On top of everything else, Clary must worry about murdered Downworlders, the romantic side of Simon, and figuring out the runes that seem to pop into her head at random. The plot moves quickly, the characters show genuine development, and readers who are hooked from the first book of the series won’t be disappointed. However, as a minor criticism, the book truly hit you where it hurts by throwing incest into the mix; at times I found myself wanting to shake Clare just for putting us all through it. But, trust me on this, guys, it’s a book that is worth the character shipping anxiety.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

5 out of 5

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If you’re into breaking and entering (with regard to secret cities), prejudice against Downworlders (metaphor much), the dark side of Shadowhunters (we all just love the dark), a mysterious guy named Sebastian (sigh), and toeing the line between friendly and incestuous (eek), then this book is right up your dark and creature-filled alley. Valentine and his allies have begun a civil war, leaving Downworlders and Shadowhunters unsure how to react and Clary Fray certain that she must harness her power with runes to save the Shadowhunters’ Glass City. If readers go into this series with any expectations, they are sure to be shattered and recreated at least 20 times before they’ve even read through the first 100 pages. Once again, Clare manages to combine a bit of reality, a dash of myth, and a heap of world-building to create a truly unique experience.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

4 out of 5

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So, what does one do when the war is over and everything should be going back to normal? Well, if you’re Clary Fray, you help plan a wedding that’s been several decades coming, begin training as a Shadowhunter about sixteen years late, allow a rift to develop between you, your boyfriend, and your best friend, and generally have your world fall apart all over again. The Mortal Instruments series was very clearly intended to be a “three shots and done” endeavor, but for some crazy, wonderful, fan-pleasing reason, Clare decided to take it a few steps further. The issue with this continuance is that the series ends of feeling disjointed and broken, with the first three books an entity apart from City of Fallen Angels and the plot it introduces. While I adore Clary, Jace, and the rest of their leather-wearing, weapons-wielding crew, and this book is definitely worth reading, readers beware. Go in with a clear mind and an openness to an entirely new plot or you’re bound to end up whining and crying on your sofa with a tub of ice cream.

Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky Trilogy) by Veronica Rossi

4 out of 5

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Aria needs to find the Still Blue to get Perry’s nephew back , Perry needs to lead the Tides as their Blood Lord or they risk dying out, and Aria and Perry NEED to be together despite their seemingly opposite pursuits. I have never seen a book that so thoroughly and perfectly describes and exemplifies the needs of the various characters, as well as how those needs interact and often conflict. Additionally, Rossi must be commended for her efforts and general success in incorporating the needs and pursuits of secondary characters, Roar and Liv, without casting aside those of the primary characters. Rather than characters canceling each other out as many second books mistakenly do when expanding the character base, Rossi was able to create a storyline wherein they truly coexist (even if certain characters…*cough* Liv *cough*…aren’t allowed as much growth as others). Readers will not be disappointed by this book, but they might be nervous about the long wait for the next installment–come on, Rossi, January of 2014 is too far away for my book addiction to deal!

Shiver (Linger Trilogy) by Maggie Stiefvater

3 out of 5

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You know those RomComs and RomDrams where you literally want to reach into the film and make everything okay for the key characters? That’s how I felt about this installment in the Shiver trilogy: Grace and Sam needed a different set of hands to manipulate them or at least guide them on their way because Stiefvater’s simply weren’t cutting it. Sam is human and maladjusted, Grace is sick and hiding it from everyone, Cole is a broken human hiding behind a wolf mask, and Isabelle detests the wolves after the death of her brother but she just can’t seem to stay away. While this book certainly made valuable contributions to the trilogy overall–most importantly insight into Grace’s childhood experience with the wolves and explaining Sam’s back story overall–but, it also seems to have attempted to do too many things at once. With so many different directions to go, the storyline and readers experiencing it might feel a bit frazzled even if they do appreciate the plot development.

Forever (Shiver Trilogy) by Maggie Stiefvater

4 out of 5

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By the conclusion of this trilogy, Sam and Grace have effectively switched places, the problem is also the cure, a cast of new characters detracts from the old, and it seems as though Stiefvater has decided that ambiguity is her specialty. While a slight improvement over the second book, this third and final book continues the trend of approaches a plot from too many different angles at once. At times, the book  felt like a tedious chore–rather, it was not so much the plot’s conclusion that was important, but rather a personal devotion to not leaving a book unfinished once started. Yet, even once the end was reached, the plot felt unsettled and wracked by the lack of a definitive resolution. My biggest suggestion: go with the flow and don’t focus on the details during the reading. If you stick to the bigger picture, you’ll have a better reading experience; you might miss a couple of side stories, but at least you won’t feel like you’ve lost as much when the book comes to an unsatisfying end.

Override (Glitch Trilogy) by Heather Anastasiu

5 out of 5

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I was incredibly annoyed some months ago when I read Glitch, the first book in this work-in-progress trilogy, and saw that reviewers tore it apart like homemade confetti. If I’m honest, I went off on a bit of a tangent when that happened, and I promptly began to rebut every bad review I saw. Well, this follow-up to the first book only serves to prove my point: Anastasiu knows what she is doing and she truly can deliver! Moving beyond the confines of the Community and the slower pace that world-building can sometimes include, Anastasiu truly allows the character of Zoe to develop and grow into her world, becoming a part of it, rather existing as a separate and one-dimensional entity. Through endeavors in strengthening the Resistance, fighting the authority of the Community, and developing a growing cast of superhuman fighters, the story literally and figuratively moves above the surface and becomes three-dimensional.

Crossed (Matched Trilogy) by Ally Condie

5 out of 5

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After confusion regarding Society’s first Match for her, Cassia rebelled against a life without choices, and decided to choose for herself. In this second installment, Cassia has ventured to the Outer Provinces of society in search for the love that she was torn from because of Society’s harsh restrictions. Told in alternating points of view, this book allows insight into Ky’s search for a better future, Cassia’s wish to find a way to fight the wrongs of the past, and, through them both, a peak into how significant Cassia’s first match and old best friend, Xander, truly is in society’s future. I’m hesitant to say much about this book because I feel as though even the most vague comments would reveal too much and take away from the wonderful experience that Condie was able to create and invites readers to enjoy. Thus, my only recommendation is to read this one as soon as possible because you won’t regret it. (Plus, I need more people to fangirl with about it.)

Requiem (Delirium Trilogy) by Lauren Oliver

5 out of 5

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First there was Lena: insightful, strong, and illegally in love with the idea of love since the day her “ill” mother first mentioned the idea. Then there was Alex: a boy from the outside who enticed Lena with ideas of a world where one’s emotions were purely one’s own. And, finally, there was Julian: beautiful and nearly perfect, but considered “faulty” in a society where, if surgery cannot remove one’s emotions, the person is an unnecessary. Between the three of them is a love triangle and a struggle for survival that none of them expected to come about. Now, having all escaped the emotionless society and escaped back into the Wilds, the three dedicate themselves to the resistance. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this storyline is that, in spite of the theme being that of love and the intrinsic necessity of emotions overall, the characters do not lose themselves to love, nor is the trilogy a love story. Instead, Oliver’s is a tale of finding oneself in the world that surrounds you and realizing that, no matter what society says, it is society that is flawed, not you. While the conclusion is mildly unsatisfying and will not bring the closure that love story aficionados will crave, the story in itself is sublime and I would not change the ending for the world. I urge everyone to read this trilogy even if it is the only reading you do this year.

Asunder (Newsoul Trilogy) by Jodi Meadows

5 out of 5

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Ana is the only Newsoul in seemingly all of existence, and ever since Templedark, that fact has become even more significant, putting her in increasingly more danger as the number of Darksouls is counted and fear of more Newsouls increases. In addition to such internal conflict within Heart, sylph are also acting in new ways and dragons frighten even the seemingly invincible character that is Sam. With her very existence at risk, and the existence of everyone else so uncertain, Ana has to learn to defend herself better and find her true purpose quicker, all while trying to save those that may very well want her dead. At its core, Meadows presents an existential crisis of mammoth proportions, as well as an exploration of how age, history, and our own choices shape our souls. When I wrote about the first book in the trilogy, I already knew that I was attached to Ana’s character and needed to see her through to the end of her story, but this installment has only intensified my attachment. If I had a time machine, I would jump ahead to January of 2014 just to get my hands on a copy of Infinite.

Now, to conclude what seems to have become a parade of science fiction and dystopian books from series and trilogies–I don’t know what was up with my reading list but I haven’t read a single one shot book lately–I hope that you will check out some of these books and have as good an experience as I had. If I were to choose just one, I would hope that you would give any of the books from the Delirium trilogy a shot, but I truly wish you would try them all. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below and get the conversation going. Happy reading!

Over 15 In Under An Hour: Book Reviews.

In an ode to what this blog use to be, as well as the ridiculous number of books I have read over the past couple weeks, I am going to be doing 16 quick book reviews in as little time as possible. 1, 2, 3, go!

Every Day by David Levithan

5 out of 5

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Told from the viewpoint of A, a gender nonspecific soul or entity that lives in another body every day, David Levithan unfolds a tale that proves how vital memories to existence, the ways in which uncertainty and constant fluidity can affect the psyche, and the complexity of human relationships. The book is well written, simple to follow, and truly causes the reader to question the importance we place upon arbitrary events and ideas each day. I cannot find words that can truly describes the depth of human emotion that this book portrays and brings out in the reader.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

5 out of 5

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If you have been on the Internet the past few years, and most particularly on Tumblr, then you know that hearing about this book (the first of a series) has been unavoidable. Personally, I avoided reading it for quite some time simply because the fans grated on my nerves. However, now that I have read it, I entirely understand the excitement over every word Cassandra Clare has written. In City of Bones, Clare develops a world in which vampires, werewolves, demon hunters, fay, warlocks, and so many more creatures exist in plain sight, yet without anyone outside of the world itself truly being able to see. The primary character, Clary, has been part of this world since birth but she has not seen it until now. City of Bones follows Clary’s discovery of this second world that envelops her more obvious and mundane one, and how those two worlds will come to be intertwined. Overall, the book is well written, holds a storyline that is absolutely enthralling, and leaves you wanting more.

Matched by Ally Condie

5 out of 5

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In the Society, mathematics and science decide almost everything. Who you marry, what work you do, where you live, and even who will be your family and friends. Once those things are established, the Society follows your every movement and decision, breaking you down into a statistics and tracking you through their findings. When main character Cassia has her Matching ceremony, where she is to learn who she will marry, something goes wrong (or rather right) and more than one face appears as her match. This leads Cassia to question her character as well as that of others, as well as to progressively rebel against the rigid structure of the society. This book suggests an interesting yet not unheard of idea of a society in which emotions are rejected as having been the downfall of previous societies. I score this book so highly simply because, for an overdone plot line, it truly felt like a new idea while reading. The character of Cassia is complex, like most people, and that makes her very relatable. As well, there is Cassia’s absolutely human quality of self-doubt and confusion that is often missing in other young adult novels. I cannot wait to read the next book in this series.

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

4 out of 5

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I have a bit of a soft spot for books set in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and this book hit me right in that spot. Quite honestly, the novel gets off to a slow start and I considered putting it down before I had even really begun; however, if you truly allow your mind the freedom of immersing yourself in the upper class of early nineteenth century New York City and all that that lifestyle included, you begin to enjoy it more than ever. The Luxe opens with the funeral of Elizabeth Holland before jumping backward to explain how such an event came to take place. Through this tale, Godbersen addresses the standards and behaviors of upper class society, the idea of familial loyalty, and frequent the necessity of lies in order to live life well. While I will not yet commit to reading the second book in the series as the plot line moved along at a snails place, I might find myself drawn to it simply to enjoy the setting once again.

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

5 out of 5

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Nikki Beckett has spent a century in the Everneath; however, to the people she use to know on the Surface, only 6 months have passed.  In a modern retelling of the Greek myths surrounding Persephone and Hades, Brodi Ashton successfully translates myth into reality and leaves readers in rapt anticipation of the promised continuation of the trilogy. The characters are generally believable and complex as humans always are, and the overall plot calls to mind questions of where the line between fact and fiction actually lies within myths and fairy tales. Even as the plot becomes more complicated and the dark side to each character becomes apparent, readers will surely find themselves wishing that they could be part of the action.

Where the Truth Lies by Jessica Warman

3 out of 5

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Boarding school. Young love and lust. Poor grades. Unexplained night terrors. At first glance, this novel seems to be the perfect setup for the average young adult love story, and in the first half of the novel, it fulfills that cliché to a T. However, after quite a bit of typical romance and teenager confusion, the plot truly takes off and questions begin to develop about the main character, Emily Meckler’s, life views, plans, and overall background. I was entirely disappointed in Warman’s inability to tie all aspects of the plot together in order to make a cohesive book; however, the plot did keep me interested enough to read until the last page. I would not recommend the book unless you want a slow and possibly bad introduction to the world of young adult mystery novels.

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

4 out of 5

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Written in free/blank verse and spanning over 200 pages, Because I Am Furniture broached the topics of obvious child abuse as well as abuse by way of absolute neglect. The main character, Anke, is the youngest of three children and lives with her mother and father. Anke’s father is physically and sexually abusive to both her older brother and older sister; however, he does not even seem to notice her own existence. Throughout the book, Anke deals with the emotions surrounding her abuse by way of neglect and struggles with the knowledge that she recognizes her father’s crimes but feels that she can do nothing to prevent them. Although I am not usually a fan of blank verse novels, simply because they tend to ramble on, I enjoyed this book and appreciated its abrupt and to the point writing style. Chaltas was definitely not afraid to write exactly what she meant rather than hiding all meaning beneath veils of pointless imagery and metaphors. I cannot see myself reading it again, but if you are prepared for an emotional journey and unafraid to face the darker aspects of being human, I would wholeheartedly suggest it as a quick read.

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

5 out of 5

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Ana lives in a world where everyone is a reincarnation of a soul that has existed for thousands of years. That is, everyone except her. When Ana was born, her soul was entirely new, and the soul that should have been reincarnated into her body simply ceased to exist. To some, that makes her a No Soul, and to others a New Soul. This book follows Ana as she attempts to unravel the mystery behind her own existence with a little help from a kind old soul known to her as Sam. The aspect that intrigued me most about this book was that I have never seen something written about reincarnation that was so believable. From the very first page you want Ana to find some assurance of her existence and you want to defend her against every evil that crosses her path. Your heart truly beat and bleeds for Ana. I get attached to characters, but this sort of attachment was on a whole other level and I will stick by her until Meadows brings the trilogy to the very end.

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

5 out of 5

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Okay, I have to retract what I just said. I got attached to McGarry’s characters of Echo and Noah as well. Essentially, Echo was involved in a family tragedy her sophomore year of high school. After she returns to school with both mental and physical scars of a tragedy that she cannot fully remember, her old relationships and friendships become either seriously stressed or entirely disintegrate. Echo is desperate to remember the event that her mind was so desperate to forget. At the same time, the character of Noah has been dealing with his own issues. Freshman year his parents were killed in a home fire and, as a result, he and his two younger brothers have been living in foster care. Most significantly, they are in separate foster care and Noah is desperate to reunite the only family he knows. As both Echo and Noah navigate their lives in the aftermath of terrible tragedy, they grow together and learn to rely on each other. Unlike many books in the genre, these two face problems from every angle and it led some realism to the overall relationship. The plot itself was no far stretch from real life and thus made it easier to emotionally connect to these characters that life had so fiercely attempted to break. I am not one to cry easily or frequently and this book made me do exactly that. There are sexual references, some cursing, and other such teenage and life instances, so I would not recommend this book to people who are not mature enough to face those realities.

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

5 out of 5

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No matter how much I try not to, I cannot help but compare this book and it’s style to that of every John Green book I have ever read. Told from the alternating views of Lyla and Tripp, it is a heartwarming tale of the unlikely union between two different types of musicians. Lyla is a tightly wound cellist who plays by the rules and does as she is told. Tripp is an unstructured guitarist who makes his own rules and feels rather than learns. When the two come to share a music practice room in their high school, a friendship grows between them that is music all its own. Overall, the plot line moved along fluidly and I found few grammatical or plot related errors. The main characters are dynamic, relatable, and likeable, and I honestly wish that I knew them in real life. It is not a heavy or complicated read, nor is it going to drastically change your views, but it will definitely call your attention to aspects of life that you had simply grown apathetic to and forgotten to notice. Also, as a plus, Amato quite literally included guitar notes in the back pages of Guitar Notes…play on!

Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

5 out of 5

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I know that I am going to sound pretentious in this review and I just cannot help, so why should I try? Glitch is a book that seems to have been written straight from the depths of my mind, and quite honestly shares a remarkable number of similarities to my own novel that hides amongst the folders on my Macbook. In short, Zoe lives in a technological and mechanical world known as the Community. In the Community, all emotions have been rejected and society is driven by implanted chips which break down life into simple and harmless tasks. Every day is the same and every one is the same. When Zoe’s chip begins to glitch and she gets a glimpse of how world is without the rose-colored glasses of the Link network, Zoe becomes curious about the rest of world and how different life could be. In addition to this mental clarity, Zoe also learns that her glitch is due to her own mental development of telekinetic powers. Zoe struggles to control these newfound powers and remain in the only society she knows, all well longing for something more. I will not say much about this book simply because I could go on about it for hours; however, I will say that I found the plot line to be wonderful albeit the pace was rather slow. Regardless of the pace I stayed up all night turning pages and have not regretted that loss of sleep at all. I cannot wait for the second book and the resolution to a well placed but purely evil cliffhanger. Kudos to Anastasiu for keeping me waiting.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

5 out of 5

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After finally reading this piece, I wish that I could slap every person who told me that it was precisely like Twilight. Okay, the plot does involve wolves who shape shift into humans, but the similarities end there. Shiver is the story of girl named Grace who was attacked by wolves year before but retains no fear of them. In fact, Grace believes that there is more to them than meets the eye and she even calls the wolf with the yellow eyes her own. When Grace finally comes to meet the boy, Sam, who exists with the yellow eyed wolf, her life is changed forever and she is ushered into a world and life that she never would have dreamed about. Overall, I found the romance between Grace and Sam to be incredibly endearing and a topic of which I do not believe I will tire. While I can understand how this novel would not appeal to some, as paranormal romance novels often do not, I would urge readers to give it a shot. It is a prime example of well written paranormal novels that go beyond clichés and actually navigate a suspenseful plot.

MacKinnon Curse Trilogy by J.A. Templeton

4 out of 5

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The MacKinnon family is legend in this Scottish town and even the newest residents, an American family that includes main character Riley Williams, cannot avoid being affected by the MacKinnon’s tale. After living through an accident that killed her mother-the event which led the family to movie across the globe-Riley has developed the ability to interact with ghosts. Within moments of moving to Scotland, Riley meets Ian MacKinnon, the ghost who use to inhabit the castle near her own residence. As the tale develops over three books and a novella, Riley comes to terms with her ability to talk to ghosts as well as the event which led to the ability. I generally do not expect much from ebooks, particularly when the first in the series is free, but I was pleasantly surprised by Templeton’s writing abilities. While the storyline sounds as though it would follow the cliché “ghostly interactions and becoming a median” plot line, it is executed in such a way that it feels new. Not only does the plot involve “helping ghosts move into the light” but also a stalker ghost set out for blood, the concept of reincarnation, and the simple confusion of being the new girl in not just the new school but also new country. I hope that Templeton continues writing and perhaps expands even further upon Riley’s character and the MacKinnon curse. I would not recommend the book to anyone who is easily triggered by mentions of self harm or violence, or those whose sensibilities deny the possible existence of ghosts and the like.

Lovely by Alison Liddelle

4 out of 5

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Oops, I just realized that I already reviewed this book. Link –> Lovely by Alison Liddelle

Alright, darlings, my fingers might fall off so that is all for now. I hope that I have helped you find a few new books to add to your reading list and I would love any suggestions for my own reading list in the comments below or by email. Have fun reading!

Lovely by Allison Liddelle: A Book Review.

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Plot Blurb:

“What if you had the chance to go back and change everything? The chance to alter one day, one evening, that would set the stage for your entire life? What about ten times? Ten times to take the same instant and mold it until you make it right, or horribly wrong…

Alice Hawkings was given that chance, to either ultimately save her own life or end it. In ten tries, she has to decide to live or die. But she doesn’t know she has the chance, and she’s not sure she wants to give life a fair chance to change her mind” (Allison Liddelle).

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I urge readers to approach this piece of literature with an open mind and heart, and preferably without the interference of any of the reviews available online, including this one. However, if you must hear an honest opinion, please read on.

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Personal Review:

Upon discovering this book, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of living one day ten times over. I wondered: how can one day change a life? And even more importantly, can it change anything at all? So, I read, I processed, and I read again. Then, amidst drowning in someone else’s words, I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. I had found another author that was not afraid of the truth in all its ugliness and–even more special–an author who saw the beauty in destruction and terrible things.

In only 133 pages, this book tackles difficult subjects that many people wish to ignore, throwing them in the reader’s face and demanding that they be recognized. Through a minimalist cast of characters, a heaping dose of emotions, and everyday vocabulary, the reader is quickly exposed to the belief that brushing anything under the rug will take no one anywhere “lovely”, only facing the truth will.

I will admit, the styling and layout of this piece is unusual. When compared to the typically linear format of modern literary works, the plot line of this piece is as nonlinear as literature can get. However, I must argue that the seemingly jumbled storyline lends much to the tale in that it is a better representation of the human mind. One might even venture to say that it harkens back to the days of “stream of consciousness” writing in 20th century British literature. How often do our minds jump from topic to topic, connecting one dot to another without conscious reasoning to do so? If you are like me, then you will admit that such thought patterns (or lack there of) occur every moment of every day. This piece simply follows that idea of mental randomness and allows it to represent the very beast of human emotion with the character of Alice Hawkings acting as the simple vessel of portrayal.

Quite honestly the only complaint I have in regards to the plot line is the speed at which the resolution and conclusion are complete. The majority of the book deals with the rise and crescendo of the plot, yet few pages deal with the aftermath or small details of Alice’s “closure.” While the conclusion is understandable in its current condition, I was left wanting for a bit more detail at the end since the beginning parts of the plot line held so very much.

Having read the reviews of my fellow readers only after completing this review myself, I am honestly disappointed that many of them did not appreciate the subtleties and nuances of the overall piece. Regardless of spelling or grammatical errors and the unusual organization, I give this book 5 stars based upon the bravery of the plot alone. I can certainly understand how the book might not appeal to all readers, but I encourage others to read it and appreciate it for its own beauty. If the topics of suicide, self harm, child abuse, mental instability or mental illness, and “the strive to be lovely” do not appeal to your personal taste then this piece is best avoided. But, if you are willing to risk the read, I think you will find it well worth it.

Hopefully my own review can persuade a few to take the chance on this rather short piece and revel with me in the author’s ideas regarding life, death, and the difference between living and surviving. As always, my dears, read with an open mind. Books are nothing without a mind that is willing to accept the worlds within them. Happy reading.

Come Alive by Elora Ramirez

The strongest people in life are often those that you least suspect. At least, that has been my experience. They are the boy or girl who put on a brave face. The man or woman who smiles regardless. The person who makes it through terrible days and nights without anyone even taking notice. Strength is a difficult aspect of humanity to understand because it is different for every person. For Stephanie Tiller, strength is something that she consistently feels she has run out of and others believe she has no need for it.

In Elora Ramirez’s book Come Alive, the reader is instantly immersed in a world where everything holds a secret story. A girl with a dirty father and desperate hopes of escape. A boyfriend with a truly loving heart and a hidden agenda. A former teacher with a soul of pure white and an abundance of cookies. A world in which many of those that commit crimes are the same people that are meant to stop them from being committed.

While I will not tell you the whole storyline–as I wouldn’t want to ruin it for those that want to read it and some pretty heavy topics are involved–the book is overall centered around the idea that pain, darkness, and the past in general can lead a person to places and actions that they never imagined. Countless times during my reading, I had flashbacks to the dark bits of my past as well as the songs that I took comfort in at the time. “Beauty From Pain” by SuperChick (Song Link) echoed in my mind with every turn of a page.

Setting aside the religious component of both this song and Come Alive, both express this deep feeling of deliverance from the darkness. A coming into the light. An awakening of some deep seated faith or hope. For the character Stephanie Tiller, she holds such light within her, as seen in her creative writing and general thoughts on life, yet others attempt to suppress it with suffocating darkness. While many may not suffer the exact same circumstances as Stephanie, it is heartbreakingly easy to relate to the feeling of being a caged bird that is present throughout the tale.

It has taken me far too long to write this review with my only justification being that I read this novel thrice over and still could not find quite the right words to express my feelings. For almost two months I could not decide whether I should tell my readers about this tale rather bluntly or simply encourage them to read it themselves and react accordingly. I have decided on a review that allows for something in the middle. I am tiptoeing on eggshells so that I may not influence your own reading and I hope it makes sense in the end.

Come Alive will make you cry, tear at your heart strings, break another piece of your innocence, and then hold you close and dry your tears. If no other words can describe the tale of Stephanie Tiller, it is an emotional roller coaster–a roller coaster I am honored to have ridden and likely will again.

I must warn my readers however, that the topics are quite mature and dark, and might not be appropriate for my youngest of readers and fellow bloggers. On the other hand, with the topics that are discussed on daytime and evening television now, I cannot see how it would necessarily harm readers of any age as long as they are mature in their reading. The topics simply force you to face a reality that is not pretty and that some may not appreciate.

I cannot wait for this author to delve further into her creative gifts and write more pieces of literature. Congratulations on her first full publishing and I will be sure to read the next piece of Stephanie’s story whenever it comes out!

If you are interested in the author or would like to read the book, you can find quite a bit of information about that at the links below. Cheers to your reading.

Author Website

Author Facebook

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

Divergent by Veronica Roth

This is just a quick post to say that the book Divergent by Veronica Roth is absolutely lovely, and each of you should check it out. And while you are at it, pick up the sequel that comes out May 1, 2012, called Insurgent. In honor of the sequel, I am showing my Divergent (specifically the Dauntless faction) pride today. Feel welcome to do the same. Much love darlings.