12 December 2015

Review: Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne

"They Said It Was An Accident...Sawyer Dodd is a star athlete, a straight-A student, and the envy of every other girl who wants to date Kevin Anderson. When Kevin dies in a tragic car crash, Sawyer is stunned. Then she opens her locker to find a note:
You're welcome.Someone saw what he did to her. Someone knows that Sawyer and Kevin weren't the perfect couple they seemed to be. And that someone—a killer—is now shadowing Sawyer's every move..." (Barnes and Noble)
From the very first pages of Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne, I was sucked into a mystery. At first glance, Kevin's accident seemed like an accident. It's not until Sawyer gets the message in her locker and a detective shows up at her house that the accident seems like it may not have been an accident after all. Each chapter drew me further into Sawyer's mystery and I found my self trying to solve the crime. The culprit completely surprised me!

I give Truly, Madly, Deadly 3.4 dragonflies. I really enjoyed the book and I felt for Sawyer, but I am not sure I would want to re-read the book now that I know the ending.

08 December 2015

Review: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

 When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.
But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned-- something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."
Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Krisitn's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self." (book jacket)

Kristin's journey through her diagnosis is not an easy journey. She has to decide whether or not to have her internal testes removed, who to tell (if anyone) and home school or traditional school after her secret is leaked. When Kristin's secret is leaked, her high school piers start to make her life a living hell and her track season is jeopardized because of complaints from other schools about her intersex status. Kristin's life seems to fall apart, but a few people stick by her side throughout her journey.

I picked up None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio shortly after I finished reading George by Alex Gino (my review of George can be found here), and I was curious. I.W. Gregorio's debut novel was a great way for me to delve into a world in which I have no practical knowledge. Growing up I had heard of people who were intersex (which there was a more offensive word used then), but being a person who was born a woman, I have female hormones,  I had no practical knowledge of this condition. Being able to learn with Kristin about her body was really cool.

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4 dragonflies. I think None of the Above is an excellent book to use as a way to approach the issue of intersex people. Thankfully I have not had to deal with the issue in my personal life,  I can't imagine how difficult it must be, I'm glad that the intersex community can have a voice through None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio. For more information on intersex, check out Gregorio's website.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

"He told me he loved me and I believed him.
When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole — a handsome, funny sports star who adores her — she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate . . . someone who truly loves and understands her.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, and increasingly violent threats.
As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose — between her "true love" and herself." (Barnes and Noble)
Alex Bradford has spent the last few years planning a trip to Colorado with her best friends Bethany and Zack. The trip to Colorado is supposed to give Alex answers about her mother's death. However, Alex's relationship with her best friends becomes strained when she starts dating Senior transfer student, Cole Cozens. At first Alex's relationship with Cole seems okay, it's only when his jealousy for Alex's relationship with Zack starts to show that she realizes something isn't quite right. Alex is so deep in her relationship with Cole that when the abuse turns physical, she immediately starts making excuses to herself about what happened. Alex finally gets the courage to tell when it is almost too late.

My thoughts:
Bitter End had my attention the entire time I was reading. I didn't want to put the book down because I had to know if Alex was going to be okay. I needed to know why Cole switched schools suddenly. I needed to know more. There were moments as  I read Bitter End when I could feel my heart racing with anticipation. I wanted Alex to be safe.

I think there are a lot of girls (and guys) out there who are in the same situation as Alex. There are so many unhealthy relationships out there, having a book where someone finds a way OUT even if it may come at such a costs is great.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown has earned 4 dragonflies.

04 December 2015

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

"An edgy, realistic debut novel praised by the New York Times bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys, as “a beautiful reminder that amid our broken pieces we can truly find ourselves.”

Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer by her backyard pool. Instead, she hides in her closet, counts the slats in the air vent, and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does—and deal with the trauma.
When Bodee Lennox—“the Kool-Aid Kid”—moves in with the Littrells after a family tragedy, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in this quiet, awkward boy who has secrets of his own. As their friendship grows, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her summon the courage to find her voice and speak up about the rape that has changed the course of her life." (overview provided by Barnes and Noble.)

I picked up a copy of Faking Normal after coming across the blurb on EpicReads, and didn't put the book back down until  I finished it that night. From the very first pages of Faking Normal,  I was invested in Alexi. I wanted to know exactly what happened to her and who was responsible for her pain. The pain Alexi struggles with is so apparent to the reader that it's almost depressing how much it seems others don't see it. There are a few times when her friends mention a change in her behavior and attitude, but her parents and sister seem a little oblivious. The only one in the book who truly notices how much pain Alexi is in is Bodee, a boy whose mother is murdered by his father shortly before the story begins.

What I love about Faking Normal is how accurately Courtney C, Stevens portrays small town southern America. Set in Rickman, Tennessee, the highlight of the town are the high school football games and some of the football players have a pretty significant role in the book. Alexi's best friends, Heather and Liz date football players (Collie and Ray), Alexi is asked out by 2 different football players (Dane and Hayden), and Alexi's sister Kayla is dating/engaged to the high school football coach, Craig Tanner. 

Alexi's story is complicated. She doesn't want to tell anyone about what happened, not just because she's embarrassed and ashamed, but because she doesn't want to hurt someone who means so much to her and would be devastated if the truth ever came out. At one point, I thought I knew who Alexi's rapist was and when it was finally revealed, I had to double check that I read the correct name-- something that Bodee had to do as well when he found out the who. AMAZING twist. I loved how that reveal occurs.
Faking Normal  is an amazing book about trying to heal after trauma and how you can't do it on your own. I love this book. Another amazing review of Faking Normal can be found here by Teen Librarian's Toolbox.

21 October 2015

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder

"Rae’s always dreamed of dating a guy like Nathan. He’s nothing like her abusive stepfather—in other words, he’s sweet. But the closer they get, the more Nathan wants of her time, of her love, of her…and the less she wants to give.
As Rae’s affection for Nathan turns to fear, she leans on her friend Leo for support. With Leo, she feels lighter, happier. And possessive Nathan becomes jealous. He’s not about to let her go. And with danger following her every move, Rae must fight for the life and love she deserves if she’s going to survive." (bn.com)
Rae's relationship with the new-to-town Nathan is rocky from day one. Nathan seems to set his sights on Rae and almost immediately decides he WILL date her, refusing to take no for an answer. Instead of asking her out (like a normal human being) he basically demands she meet him at a restaurant, makes her wait for him and orders for her. Then after asking her opinion on what she likes on pizza, purposely orders one with onions after Rae told him she hates onions.
From the very first date, Nathan's possessive nature is evident, starting with his demands that she delete all the boys from her phone to pressuring her to have sex when she has told him repeatedly that she's not ready. When Rae meets her friend Leo at his families coffee shop, Nathan violently confronts Rae, then switches his anger into sadness and confusion as a way to disarm Rae's justifiable anger at the present situation.
In between stressful moments with Nathan, Rae has to deal with her abusive stepfather and his ever increasing demands for her hard earned money.
Rae's life is in chaos. She lives in constant emotional turmoil. Her rays of sunshine are her love of poetry, a mysterious floral philanthropist who sends Rae on Special deliveries and Leo, the true "boy-next-door."

My thoughts:
Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder is a really good, thought provoking novel. Watching Rae navigate her way through high school, abuse at home and a controlling boy, who just won't accept she broke up with him, makes me hope my younger cousins can navigate through life without these issues. I hope my cousins and nieces have healthy relationships. But more importantly, I hope if any of my cousins, nieces or nephews find themselves in abusive relationships, they find Rae's courage and GET OUT.
February (yes I know that is 4 months away) is Teen Dating Violence Month. According to the CDC 1 in 10 teens REPORT being hit, hurt, kissed, touched or even raped by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Keyword: REPORT. So many more teens are being abused and never say a word.
February may be TDVA month, but the time to speak up is NOW. Resources are available to help.
One resource I came across is Love is Respect, hosted by Break the Cycle. Not only does the site offer valuable information for teens, there is stuff for adults wanting to help.
Love is Respect offers a live chat feature, texting with advocates (text: "loveis" to 22522), or the ability to talk to someone over the phone at 1-866-331-9474.
Please if you need help, Get Help.

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Falling for You has earned 5 dragonflies. I will pass this book on to my cousins and anyone who needs it. 

10 October 2015

Life changes and so do we. . .

Hello readers,
It's been some time since I last posted anything to this blog. I'm not apologizing, just taking ownership. (I realize I'm not always consistent in blogging.) I am not making excuses, but I want to let you know why I've been away for the past few months.

Almost 4 months, my life changed completely. The most important person in my life passed away in the early hours of June 18th. My daddy was gone. Life has been chaotic since Daddy passed away. There are times when I feel my world is crumbling and I can't stop it. Then there are times when I am filled with peace knowing my Dad lived a Christian Life. My Dad was a Christian and he is where he has always wanted to be.

Losing Dad has been a shock and there are days when I really don't want to do anything. This is why I haven't posted much since March. I planned to be more active and failed. I'm working on somethings now and hopefully I'll be back soon.

11 March 2015

Snagged at the Library Challenge

I have decided to participate in the Snagged at the Library Reading Challenge hosted by The Geeky Blogger's Book Blog and The Book Nympho.

Geeky Bloggers Book Blog

The rules of the challenge are simple:
• Runs January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015. You can join any time.
• The goal is to read at least twelve (12) books from the library. Twelve should be easy, that’s one a month. While twelve is the minimum, there is no maximum limit. See the different levels below and pick the one that works best for you.
• Any format will work for this challenge (print, ebook or audio) as long as you checked it out from the library it counts.
• Books can be any genre (fiction, nonfiction, romance, fantasy, mystery, thriller, horror, etc.).
• Crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed, including re-reads. The goal is to support your local library and save money.
• To join this challenge, grab the 2015 Snagged @ The Library Reading Challenge button and post this reading challenge on your blog to track your progress. Please include a link back to this sign-up post so others can join the reading challenge too. You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads (so as long as you have a dedicated shelf and Felicia has created aGoodreads group), Shelfari (I’ve created a Shelfari group. You can join and post your progress within the group), or BookLikes, etc., for the 2015 Snagged @ The Library Reading Challenge. The point of linking up is to have a place where people can see what you’re reading.

And the challenge has the following levels:
  1. Dewey Decimal: read 12 books
  2. Thrifty Reader: read 24 books
  3. Overdrive Junkie: read 36 books
  4. Stalking the Bookstacks: read 50+ books
As of right now, I  think I'm going to commit to the Dewey Decimal level of 12 books, but I am hoping to read more than 12. Hope you all will join me (even though I'm joining the challenge a little late.)
Happy Reading!

10 March 2015

Guest Post: Natalie Bina, author of Never Trust a Happy Song

Today I am honored to host guest poster, author Natalie Bina. 

Natalie, a student at Wesleyan University who enjoys singing, dancing and baking, is the author of the upcoming ebook Never Trust a Happy Song, available for pre-order until March 14th.

Never Trust a Happy Song is about a teenage girl named Cassidy who is admitted to a very prestigious summer program at Stanford University. Cassidy is use to a mom who is very serious about her study habits and wants her daughter to have the best chances later in life-- education is priority number one. However, Cassidy's host family, the Harpers, seem to be the polar opposite to her mother. With the differences in attitudes and the distractions of Grace Harper, Cassidy has to learn how to balance fun with hard work and realize that she can have both a great education and a social life.

Lately, women vloggers on Youtube have been sharing letters to their younger-selves with the meme #dearme, well, Natalie Bina's guest post is a perfect  to tie the #dearme movement. Here are Natalie Bina's words to not only her 16 year old self, but to everyone who is still in those teen years.

"Being a teenager can be hard. That, I believe, is universally known. Being 16 is especially difficult, because the freedom of childhood slips away and other people’s expectations for The Rest of Your Life begin to rain down on you like anvils. People stop asking about soccer practice or the school play and start asking about summer jobs, GPAs, college plans, career goals, and many other things that make you ball your fists and bite your lip to swallow a scream as you hiss, “I don’t know.” 
Not knowing is okay. Three years later, I still don’t have all the answers, but I’ve written down 16 things that I know now and would love to tell my 16-year-old self. It’s useless to ask the what if question, but I do sometimes wonder if anything would have changed, had I known any of these things then.

  1.        Everyone in the room is not staring at you and thinking you look stupid. They are probably too busy worrying that everyone else thinks they look stupid.
  2.        It’s okay to fail or be lazy once in a while. Those off-moments do not define your entire character.
  3.        Considering getting a ‘B’ to be “practically failing” is not a healthy mindset.
  4.        Weekdays are not off limits for doing fun things. Go to a movie with your friends on Tuesday. Get ice cream after school on Wednesday.
  5.        There is no “normal” time to do anything. Everyone should move and develop at their own pace. This applies to everything from first kisses to getting your ears pierced. You are not a lesser person if you aren’t doing something that other people are doing.
  6.        Start edging yourself a little out of your comfort zone now; don’t wait a couple years to decide to be brave. It may be scary, but it can also be wildly rewarding and fun!
  7.        Sleep in on weekends.
  8.        Learn to enjoy being alone with yourself.
  9.       Learn to enjoy being out doing things with others.
  10.    Don’t get too sucked into thinking only about the future. Yes, you have to think about college, but you will only ever be 16 (or 17 or 18) once.
  11.   It’s okay to not have one single best friend. It can be really nice to have multiple close friends spread out over a series of groups. You might not be able to hang out with all of them at the same time, but you’ll always be aware of multiple opinions and viewpoints on a subject.
  12.    Take naps. Mastering the 20 minute powernap is a life skill.
  13.    If you feel too frustrated and frazzled to do your homework, then clean your room. You’ll undoubtedly feel better afterwards.
  14.    Go running. Take a walk. Go on a bike ride. Just go outside.
  15.    Trying to eliminate chocolate from your life is never a good idea.
  16.   There are many things that you might have to sacrifice to make room for other things in your life, but your writing is not one of them."

I   I want to thank Natalie Bina for being our guest post this week and I wish her the best of luck with her new book and if you are interested in more information about Natalie or her new book you can visit her website at Natalie Bina or her GoodReads account. Never Trust a Happy Song is currently available for pre-order through Bublish, Barnes and Noble and Apple Books for $1.99. (But hurry, the price will increase to $2.99 on March 14th)

  *While reading Never Trust a Happy Song,  I found myself sad for Cassidy (especially in the beginning). The only thing Cassidy could think of was her school work and she didn't have much use for small talk or things that would not help improve her education, college applications and her resume. I can't even begin to tell you how many time I wanted to take Cassidy's mom and shake her, make her realize that the amount of pressure she was putting on her daughter wasn't helping. I did find Grace an interesting balance (at least on the outside) to Cassidy's very studious nature.

I will admit, I did have trouble getting into the story at the beginning of the book, but after a few chapters, I did begin to enjoy the book. I will give Never Trust a Happy Song  3.5 dragonflies.

Full disclosure: I was contacted by Natalie Bina to read her novel and host a spot on her blog tour. Natalie Bina was kind enough to send me a copy of her ebook. Supplying her book did not in anyway sway my review of her book.

08 March 2015

International Woman's Day

Today is International Woman's Day. Even though women have come so far compared to where we were just decades ago, there is still so far to go. More than ever, women are in roles of leadership around the world, but we can't seem to get something together. . . one thing women have a hardship with these days, we keep badmouthing each other.Instead of building one another up, we slut shame, we put each other down and we let others do the same to us.

For International Woman's Day, Youtube has brought together some of the most amazing women vloggers, like Hannah Hart, Superwomanvlogs (Lillie), Felicia Day, Lindsey Stirling and Trisha Hersberger (from Sourcefed) to give advice to their younger-selves. Advice that these amazing women wish they had known in middle and high school. I encourage you to check out these amazing and special videos. These videos are incredibly real and great for everyone. Here is a link to #dearme.


Dear Amber,
My dear, sweet younger Amber. I know right now, high school sucks. I know how difficult a time you are having trying to fit in with everyone else, to be who they want you to be. Amber, you are amazing. My advice to you, is find out who your real friends are and never let them go. Realize that those people who make fun of you for your weight, your clothing, your personality. Hun, you are just a different person. You've always marched to the beat of your own drummer, embrace it. In the words of Shrek the Musical, "Let your freak flag fly!" Who cares if your are a musical theater junkie who may be a little overweight? All of the things you are afraid to let show, the things other people make fun of you for are things that make you unique. Stand firm in your faith and love with all your heart, trust me, you are going to be just fine. I promise, the moments when you think things would be better off if you weren't around will start to vanish and don't be mad at the person who brings your issues to the attention of others. She's just doing what needs to be done to help you most.

I love you, younger Amber. Learn to love yourself, it will be AMAZING.
1999 Junior Year, 17 years old

06 March 2015

Review: Now Matter the Wreckage Poems by Sarah Kay

"In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Sarah Kay, navigates a decade's worth of writing to present us with a book that combines new poems and beloved favorites. Both fresh and wise, Sarah Kay's poetry invites us to join her on the journey of discovering herself and the world around her." (back cover of book)

My faithful readers already know I'm not a big fan of books written in poetry form. However, I LOVED Sarah Kay's book. My favorite poem in the book is called B, a poem about advice she would give her daughter if she ever has one. While Sarah Kay's words are powerful on the page, they are even better when you hear her perform them. (Trust me, check her out on Youtube.)

What makes Sarah Kay even cooler is that she and a friend named Phil Kaye teamed up to create Project Voice to help teach others the joy of Spoken Word poetry. (For more information about Project Voice, click here and for more information about Sarah, click here.)

I absolutely love Sarah Kay's poetry and I think you will also.

25 February 2015

Review: How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

"WHEN SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD TARIQ JOHNSON dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown in an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.
In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.
Tariq's friends, family and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down." (jacket summary)

So. Many.Thoughts. There seems to have been an increase in gun deaths among teenagers. However, I am not entirely sure if there has been in increase in deaths or just an increase in media attention. We live in a world where moments after something happens, EVERYONE knows. A world where journalist begin to sensationalize a story before all the facts are known. We make judgments based on what we are shown, never knowing the whole story. Even the people who witness these awful events don not know the entire story.

What I love about Kekla Magoon's novel is how she shows various witness point of views. How it Went Down demonstrates how people who witnessed Tariq's death saw different things and have conflicting stories. Did Tariq have a gun or was it a candy bar? Was Tariq in a gang or not? Why? Why? Why? So many questions, so many answers and still an incomplete conclusion.

Reading How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon,made me think about Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown and so many other who were gunned down. A time when conflicting news sources led us to such horrid opposition with one another that it lead to civil unrest, rioting and violence. This novel is amazing. So many passages made me stop and think, not only of teenagers being killed by gun and the stories that are never fully told, but how we consume our news. Do we wait to pass a judgement until all sides of the story are presented, or do we rush to make judgement and make everything much worse.

If you are ready to take a moment and really think, How it Went Down is the perfect book to help you think and a great way to start a global conversation.

Bonus: Song that went through my head as  I read How it Went Down: Glory from the movie Selma sung by John Legend and Common.

03 January 2015

Stronger than You Know by Jolene Perry

Joy's fifteen. Her normal life just began three months ago. Before that was another life that she doesn' like to remember. When the police came, it was supposed to be all over.
But now, living with her aunt and uncle in this new family where everyone tries to understand, it's not over. Joy's got a whole list of reasons why she's crazy-- the panic attacks, the meds she's on, and the hard-to-breathe feeling she gets when she has to talk to someone new. Somehow it's even harder when the person is nice.
Yet hope has a way of taking hold, and Joy just might find a way to hold on . . ." (book jacket summary)


Wow. When I picked Stronger than You Know off the shelf I could not have imagined how amazing the book would be. The first few pages of Jolene Perry's book drew me in and I could not put it down. I believe that Joy's hidden inner strength is present from the first pages of the book. For 15 years, Joy lived with her abusive mother and endless parade of other adults who did NOTHING to help the young girl, Joy had the strength to survive and open up when finally questioned.

I'm going to give this book 4 fireflies for the following reasons:

  • Stronger the You Know is the kind of book that will stick with your for awhile. I finished reading this book on New Year's Eve and I couldn't help but think about it the next couple of days. 
  • Joy's struggle to acclimate to her new reality is exactly what it should be -- a struggle. Fifteen years of abuse and neglect won't go away in the blink of an eye.
  • The struggle of Joy's extended family is beautifully portrayed with each member of the family trying to find ways to interact with Joy and not cause her to panic.
  • The relationship between Joy and her Uncle Rob is probably my favorite relationship of the entire book. From Joy's wariness and Uncle Rob's protective instincts it's a beautiful relationship.

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