Monday, July 6, 2015

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

Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publishing Date: April 7th, 2015
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352 pgs
ISBN: 9780062335319
Source: Received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review



Summary from Goodreads:
A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex... and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.
What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?
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, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?


My Review:

I LOVED THIS BOOK! This is a story about Kristin who has been brought up as a girl and identifies as a girl. The night she loses her virginity she realizes something is not quite right and visits the doctor. It is there that she finds out that she is intersex. Essentially what this means is that physically she presents as a girl but she also has male chromosomes and testes.
I love how this book explores a topic that is not often discussed. While this condition is not a super common one, there are people out there living as intersex. I think Gregorio does an excellent job of raising questions of gender norms. How would you define what a girl is and what a boy is? Is it defined by how someone looks or how they dress? Who determines what you identify as? In many cases the parents or doctors make these decisions while the child is very young. It makes you wonder if this is the right thing.
This book was well written and you can't help but feel invested in what happens to Kristin. I found myself getting upset with some of the characters. I think it's horrendous the way people treat others that don't fit into the "norm" especially in high school. The author does a great job of depicting the struggle to fit in but at the same time trying to understand yourself.
I think this novel was wonderfully written and tackles a subject that can be sensitive in a respectful and realistic way. I can't recommend this book enough. Please go out and buy it as soon as you can.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

ARC Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publishing Date: April 1st, 2015
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Pages: 406 pgs
ISBN: 9780062278845
Source: Received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review



Summary from Goodreads:
The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.


Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?

My Review:

This is the second in a series and I was excited to get this book on Edelweiss. I really enjoyed the idea of the first one and I found that I really wanted to know more about Gretchen and Daniel. This book picks up soon after the first and Gretchen and Daniel have fled Germany. They are getting settled into their new lives when Daniel gets news that his cousin has been very badly injured. Daniel decides to head back to tension filled Germany. As you can suspect Daniel doesn't come back and Gretchen goes back into Germany to save him. This is during the lead up to WWII and the the fact that Daniel is Jewish does not bode well for him nor for his girlfriend Gretchen.

I have to admit that while I was really looking forward to reading this book, it didn't live up to it's expectations for me. The story wasn't bad but it wasn't amazing. I really like the concept of focusing on someone who used to be so close to Adolph Hitler. We don't ever think of Hitler with a human element. I think that adding this element makes what he did so much worse. It baffles me how atrocities like the Holocaust occur. I think while the concept was strong, I wasn't invested in the characters as much. I had to wonder if what they were doing was brave or slightly stupid. I suppose that knowing the outcome of the war, it makes it easy for me to say they were being naive. The two were idealistic in believing they could change everything.

This is not to say that I didn't like the book. It was entertaining and I read it quickly. I wanted to know what happens next but didn't find myself loving it. Overall I would say it was a solid 3 stars. Those who like a historical fiction will enjoy this story.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WoW: The Sunrise

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it is a weekly feature where bloggers share what they are excited to read next. 

Here is my pick for the week:


Summary from Goodreads

In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple are about to open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's façade of glamour and success, tension is building.
 When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.

I read Hislop's book The Island and it was very well written. I haven't read anything else by this author but when I saw that she had a new book coming out I got a little excited about it. This one comes out on July 7th from Headline Review.  What are you waiting on? Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

WoW: Karin Slaughter's newest

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it is a weekly feature where bloggers share what they are excited to read next. 

Here is my pick for the week:



Summary from Goodreads:

#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives. Sisters. Strangers. Survivors. More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed. The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it. Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.

I love a good mystery and I really enjoy Karin Slaughter's writing. Can't wait to read this one. It's out on June 30th from William  Morrow. Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

ARC Review: Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen

Publisher: Philomel Books
Publishing Date: June 2nd, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 352 pgs
ISBN: 9780399167713
Source: Received from the publisher for an honest review



Summary from Goodreads:
A heartrending, bold novel in verse about family, identity, and forgiveness Mira is just beginning her senior year of high school when she discovers her father with his male lover. Her world–and everything she thought she knew about her family–is shattered instantly. Unable to comprehend the lies, betrayal, and secrets that–unbeknownst to Mira–have come to define and keep intact her family’s existence, Mira distances herself from her sister and closest friends as a means of coping. But her father’s sexual orientation isn’t all he's kept hidden. A shocking health scare brings to light his battle with HIV. As Mira struggles to make sense of the many fractures in her family's fabric and redefine her wavering sense of self, she must find a way to reconnect with her dad–while there is still time.
Told in raw, exposed free verse, Skyscraping reminds us that there is no one way to be a family.


My Review:

This is a book told in verse about a girl who walks in on her father having an affair with another man. She is very upset about this but she is more upset about the fact that her mother has known for a long time and has also known that he is HIV positive. 
I will start by saying that anything that has LGBTQ characters or "issues" is something that I will always want to read. I think it's mostly because I can't fathom why people would be treated as subpar based on their sexual orientation. When Vikki sent out her e-mail with ARCs and saw the synopsis for this book I knew I had to have it. Then I realized it was a book in verse. I know people are divided on verse books but I for one love them. I think that I lot can be put into minimal amounts of words. I think they are often powerful because every single word matters. 
This book was what I expected and more. I expected to be pulled into family turmoil and teenage angst. I also expected to be touched and to watch relationships develop. I didn't expect to be sobbing on my couch. I just felt for the main character and I wanted the best for her. I zoomed through this book and finished it the same day I started it. I wanted to know more and couldn't put it down. The writing is tremendous and I was in awe of how Jensen was able to convey what she needed to in the way that she did. 
I would say if you like contemporaries you should definitely read this. Even if you're unsure of verse books you should give this one a try. I also think this is an important book because you don't often get to read novels about HIV and it's epidemic in the 1990s. I am pretty sure at this point I am rambling away but writing reviews for books you really enjoyed are the most difficult things to do. I will sign off by saying go buy this one! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

ARC Review: Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

Publisher: Gallery Books
Publishing Date: February 3rd, 2015
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Pages: 368 pgs
ISBN: 9781476780016
Source: Received from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review



Summary from Goodreads:
Praised as a tender exploration of friendship, families, and first love  (Liane Moriarty, New York Times bestselling author of The Husband’s Secret), this coming-of-age novel from bestselling author Frances Whiting is equal parts heartwarming, accessible, and thought provoking. 
Tallulah de Longland she said slowly, letting all the Ls in my name loll about lazily in her mouth before passing judgment. That, she announced, is a serious glamorgeous name.
From the day Annabelle Andrews sashays into her classroom, Tallulah (Lulu) de Longland is bewitched: by Annabelle, by her family, and by their sprawling, crumbling house tumbling down to the river. 
Their unlikely friendship intensifies through a secret language where they share confidences about their unusual mothers, first loves, and growing up in the small coastal town of Juniper Bay. But the euphoria of youth rarely lasts, and the implosion that destroys their friendship leaves lasting scars and a legacy of self-doubt that haunts Lulu into adulthood. 
Years later, Lulu is presented with a choice: remain the perpetual good girl who misses out, or finally step out from the shadows and do something extraordinary. And possibly unforgivable not how far you fall, but how high you bounce.


My Review:

This book came out in February and I got it for review a few months before that and shamefully I am only now posting a review. This is horrible. To my credit, life has been ridiculous lately. Alright, onto the book review. 

This is a book that I hadn't heard much about. I knew that it was about two girls, Tallulah and Annabelle who met in middle school and grew up into young women. The book begins in such a crazy way. It is the morning after Annabelle's wedding and the groom is waking up in his nice cozy hotel room bed. The woman next to him however is not his wife but Tallulah. This set the tone for the book and it made me think that it would be much more scandalous than it actually was. The book is so much more than the story of a childhood friendship gone awry. I thought there'd be a whole lot more than of Annabelle in the book. There is a decent amount of them growing up but after the climax of the book she kind of drops off and the focus of the book is on Tallulah and her supporting cast of characters. 
I think that I loved the secondary characters even more than Tallulah at times. Throughout the book Tallulah is trying to get over something that was heartbreaking to her and sometimes it got to be a little more. I wanted to shake her and say please, please, please just take some steps to move on. That being said, if I sat down and actually thought about it, I'd have a hard time moving on too. In fact I do struggle with this from time to time when I think of past friendships. When I thought about it, I felt a little more sympathy for Lulu.

The secondary characters are eccelectic and so fun. The begin, there are Lulu's parents. Her father owns his own plumbing company and her mother struggles with depression. She names her dresses and wears them according to her mood. Her parents are everything I wish my parents were. Even though her mother is dealing with some serious mental health problems, she tries her very best and when she is on her A-game she is so sweet and caring. Her father is supportive and able to give Lulu a swift kick in the behind when she needs it. 

Annabelle's parents also make several appearances. They are both well known artists and with that comes a bit of quirkiness. They are self centered at times but I did feel for the father a bit. The mom I could do without that's for sure. 

Along with the parents Lulu becomes good friends with her boss Duncan. He is a cocky, arrogant celebrity who tends to treat people horribly. Lulu is feisty and puts him in his place and their friendship develops. He is several years older than Lulu and acts as a surrogate father at times. I think he was my favourite of the cast.
 
This book has been out for a while yet it hasn't gotten much love/buzz. I have been recommending it to everyone I can. It is so well written and the story is engaging. It will make you smile but it will also give you all the feels. I will admit to shedding a couple of tears at times. I will definitely read whatever this author puts out. Please go out and pick it up.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Addiction


So I feel like most of my posts start with "I know I haven't been around much lately" but that's exactly what I'm about to say again. The past couple of years has legit been one crisis after another after another. Today I am here to bring awareness to an issue to something that doesn't get enough attention. Addiction and mental illness affect 1 in 5 people in this county. There have been many people in my family and in my life that deal with addiction issues.
My grandparents, Gavin and a cute younger Meaghan
On April 26th my cousin Gavin, passed away from complications due to alcoholism. He was 3 months younger than I am and so he was 32 years old. Being 3 months younger than me, we pretty much grew up together. I will say that he had a rocky upbringing as his mother was an alcoholic and his father wasn't around. He lived at my grandparents' house and had no siblings.
As I have an overabundance of siblings (five, yes five) we always used to say that Gavin was the 7th Smith kid. I used to look forward to going up to my grandmother's house and hanging out with my cousin. Our main game was trouble and we used to get into a lot of it. About 5 years ago, he began falling down a dangerous path. He was lonely and depressed and drinking a bottle of vodka a day became a habit. When he drank he was angry and violent and so in order to protect myself and my family I had to take a step away. I didn't want to enable his drinking and I told him when he was ready to get help I'd be there in an instant.
To my surprise a month before he passed away I was told he was in a medically induced coma and he was suffering from failed kidneys and liver. I got a chance to spend a lot of time with him in the hospital and so did the rest of my family. When he passed he was surrounded by so many people that loved him.
I've been struggling with guilt, sadness and anger. I feel guilty because I keep wondering if I should have helped him more when I had the chance. That I didn't tell him I loved him when I could have. Intellectually I know that this guilt is not helpful and that I did what I could do at the time. Emotionally it has been a lot to process. I keep wondering if he knew that I cared or if he thought I abandoned him easily.
My cousins and I with my grams. Gavin in back on right.
The anger comes from wishing that he could have stopped a horrible cycle. Alcoholism is a disease that I truly believe is genetic. There are too many alcoholics in my family for it not to be. I can't believe that someone would watch his mother go through this addiction and then proceed to follow suit. I am angry that he wasted his life and pushed away everyone who could have helped him. I am angry that his parents didn't really give him a chance in life. They left him on his own to raise himself from the time he was an infant.
I am sad that I will never see him again. I am sad for the time that I missed with him. I am sad that he was a recluse with not many friends. I am sad that he never felt like anyone loved him or that he didn't deserve love.
Overall it has been a shitty month of grieving and dealing with quite a few emotions. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know it's not your typical post but I thought that to incorporate the books I'd post a few books that deal with addiction. It's like a shameful secret that people don't often talk about and I would love to change the stigma and maybe then we can make some changes.


These two are memoires. The first one is about drugs and alcohol while the second focuses on alcohol. I have't had a chance to read them yet but they are now on my TBR (which may or may not be about the size of Mount Everest).


I haven't read The Basketball Diaries but I have seen the movie so if that's any indication it should be good. Rachel's Holiday is one of my favourite Marian Keyes books. It is serious but it also has some humour in it.




I loved Spin. It is about a woman who goes to rehab to spy on a celebrity but she is also is need of some recovery. The Spectacular Now is another seen the movie before reading the book. I know the shame!


 I remember Where it Began being on my list of books I wanted to read but for some reason I never got to it. I think it'll have to be added to the list again. Crank was intense but so so so good. It's about meth addiction and very eye opening.


The Glass Castle is written like a fiction book but it is a memoir of growing up poor and with parents who had some alcohol issues. Parched is another memoir which I haven't read but plan on reading soon.


Well, there is my post. This started as a way to get it all out and I have found it to be cathartic. I hope that the next few years are not as chaotic as the past few have been. This year alone I've been to 5 funerals, lost my niece because it turns she was never actually my niece, dealt with some martial things and dealing with the fertility stuff. The next time I write a personal post I am hoping it's a happy one :)

Happy Reading, thanks for listening.