Tornadoes Left Her TORN AWAY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’d like to share a YA book that hit several notes with me. TORN AWAY, by acclaimed writer Jennifer Brown, recounts the aftermath of one girl’s life after an F5 tornado destroys her hometown in rural Missouri.

Torn AwayAbout the Book:

Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.

When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she’s sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?

In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.

My Review:

Having grown up in the Illinois, I immediately identified with Jersey–and her almost nonchalance when the tornado sirens go off at 5:16 on a Tuesday evening.  I endured the twice-yearly school tornado drills, kneeling on the hard floor against an internal wall, balled up tight head down with my hands crossed over my neck, from kindergarten through senior year.  I have been there, cooking dinner for my kids watching the winds pick up and the sky darken when those ear-splitting peals have sounded. I have been trapped in the tin can of a moving van driving my earthly possessions cross-country as the anvil cloud formed and the hail pelted down and the rain blew sideways with funnel clouds visible in the NOT NEARLY FAR ENOUGH distance. My son was part of a crew that cleaned up the disaster zone in Washington, Illinois nine months ago when a tornado took out half the town. So, yeah, this book hit me freaking hard.

See, like Californians get inured to earthquakes, Midwesterners get too comfortable with storms. What are the chances one is going to hit, right?

Jersey is a typical teen in a blended family. She has a step-father, Ronnie, and a five y/o half-sister, Marin. At times, Jersey is moody and jealous and self-centered. But mostly, she’s a good student who doesn’t get into trouble and has friends she gets along with, even if they have more money and Jersey always feels inferior due to their nicer clothes and slimmer bodies. She’s never known her father, her mother ran away when she was pregnant, so she’s never met her grandparents, either.

Then the tornado comes. Jersey is alone in the house because her mother has taken Marin to dance class and Ronnie has been delayed at work.

The house is torn apart. Jersey survives by hiding under a pool table in the basement which now has a skylight where the kitchen used to be.

She’s terrified, as are the rest of the neighbors, who crawl out of their basements only to find their neighborhood, well, gone. Where the houses stood there is either rubble, or nothing.

Cars? Gone.

Street? Impassable, littered with debris.

Trees? They haven’t been splintered to lay across the road or toppled over onto houses, they are simply missing. Gaping wounds in the soil bear witness to the storm’s intensity, simply plucking them from the ground like carrots. (I had chills too easily visualizing this level of destruction. I want to say I cried, but I didn’t because I was so freaking knotted up my heart was racing and the tears sat poised on my eyelashes.)

People encourage Jersey to join them in a nearby shelter–the rain is coming, and they can’t tell if another tornado is coming because the sirens have been destroyed–but she opts to wait in the open-air basement, so that she’ll be home when her mother returns.

Mild spoiler: Jersey’s mom and Marin don’t make it. I only reveal this because it sets up the rest of the story. See, after two days of searching and waiting, Jersey is discovered by Ronnie, who is so busted with grief he sends Jersey three hours away to live with her father. That was when I started crying.

Jersey lives with the guilt of surviving. And, she’s doing that on a screen porch in a house full of low-lifes and lunatics with a father who–straight out–tells she she’s unwanted and of lesser status than his other kids. It is all Jersey can do to cope, yet she does. She keeps notes on Marin, keeping her spirit alive with tiny cartoons and cherishing Marin’s most precious treasures rescued from the wreckage. She laments her previously mean ways, wishing to turn time back and do it all differently. Even to have gone to the dance class if it would mean she had died with her mother and sister and not had to live this horrible half-life.

Don’t think Jersey is a puddle of woe. She isn’t, but she is forgotten and forsaken. Back in her home community, people are rebuilding, and she wants to be a part of that. She wants to feel love–and it isn’t happening in her dad’s home. Her stepsisters torment her, steal from her, until one day Jersey snaps and an altercation leads to her running away.

She doesn’t end up on the streets, however. (THANK GOD!!) In fact, the place she’s sent is the exact right place she needs to be. Ronnie is moving back east–he can’t bear the loss he’s suffered, and Jersey is all tied in with that, so he’s leaving her behind, too. No, Jersey’s new home is the place her mother ran from, the people she’s heard horrible stories about her whole life. And it is there that Jersey is able to heal.

Jersey’s tale really got to me. She is let down and abandoned by just about everyone–her stepfather, her real father, her friends–but she finds sanctuary and she finds hope and she finds that she has people to love her, to share her grief. All I can tell you is this: I would recommend this book to anyone. It is amazing.

Interested? You can find TORN AWAY on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Jennifer BrownAbout the Author:

Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Jennifer’s weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist.

Jennifer’s debut novel, HATE LIST (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009) received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. HATE LIST also won the Michigan Library Association’s Thumbs Up! Award, the Louisiana Teen Readers Choice award, the 2012 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award, was an honorable mention for the 2011 Arkansas Teen Book Award, is a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback, received spots on the Texas Library Association’s Taysha’s high school reading list as well as the Missouri Library Association’s Missouri Gateway Awards list, and has been chosen to represent the state of Missouri in the 2012 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Jennifer’s second novel, BITTER END, (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011) received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list and is a 2012 Taysha’s high school reading list pick as well.

Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children. You can connect with Jennifer via her website, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

THE RED SHEET To The Rescue!–Review and Giveaway

mia Red Sheet award ImageThe Red Sheet by Mia Kerick
About the book:
One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.

Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.

My Review:
This book brings to light so many issues gay teens face, out or not. Bryan is a victim of homophobia, as well as a victimizer. At the beginning he “awakes” with an overpowering urge to be a hero–to save any and all brings who need help.

This new attitude is more than exceptional. His mother is startled as much as Bryan. See, he’d been both a Superjock, and a Superjerk. His story will talk to you. Really. As Bryan endeavors to figure out what provoked his complete mental flip-out, he’s constantly addressing the audience in “Plain Teen Speak” which–my teen son tells me–is ‘foul-mouthed and direct’. So, expect cursing. Also, expect to move past it quickly. Bryan’s an engaging narrator–for all that he doesn’t know WTF is happening in his brain.

And that becomes readily apparent when he encounters Scott at school. Scott is strangely enticing. Is Bryan gay? He doesn’t know–and that’s troubling to him. Especially as pretty girls tend to swoon over him. Why don’t they excite him like Scott does? And why does Scott hate him?

Bryan’s confusion over his sexuality, his attraction to Scott, and their hostile relationship are all well-described. Bryan isn’t only messed up over Scott. He’s seriously torqued-off with his dad, who abandoned him and his mother for a very much younger woman, with whom he has another child. Bryan wants to hate his dad–and he’s been pretty steadfast at it for years–but the new, “kinder gentler” Bryan responds to his mom’s urging to build a relationship, even if it’s not perfect.

Bryan is convinced that the key to his mental issues lay with Scott–and he hounds his schoolmate until he learns bits and pieces of the truth. He and Scott had been dating on the “down low” until Bryan did the unforgivable. He caved to some serious pressure from his Superjock/Jerk pals and humiliated Scott in order to hide his own attraction. And Scott’s not likely to forget it.

There was this part, where Bryan realizes all his teammates already knew about himself and Scott–and wonders what it was he was hiding for…

RS 5 Promoand he recognizes the futility of all his bullying shenanigans. In the end, coming out is just what he has to do, even if Scott will never accept him as a boyfriend. In fact, Bryan’s willing to take any friendship that Scott will offer in order to be close to him.

This causes more issues, and prompts Bryan to move his alliance from the Superjocks to Scott–and build all new friendships in the process. The level of intolerance spans from simple taunting to all-out battery, something the new Bryan won’t tolerate. I was glad to watch Bryan “get it”. I was also glad to see Scott really consider all that Bryan does to prove his loyalty and friendship. It was refreshing that Scott wasn’t a dishrag–he has a spine, complete with heavy armored plating–Bryan really has to work to gain forgiveness for all his wrongs, and he does it all with a sense of style–even joining a flash mob for a teacher to hang with Scott.

By the end I was so rooting for Scott to accept Bryan–the New Bryan–that I was reading as fast as I possibly could to get to the end–and was relieved to find the resolution excellent. 

How about a little taste:
“Hey, you guys!” Marley plunked her ass down on the chair across the table from me. As usual, Kathy followed closely behind and hovered by her shoulder when Marley sat down. “I’ve got big news!”

We all turned to her at once. Josh even put down his walnut-grape-granola-goat-cheese-chicken-salad sandwich on focaccia to give her his full attention. “What’s up?” he asked between enthusiastic chews.

“I just heard some teachers talking in the hall. And they said that Friday is Miss
Libby’s thirtieth birthday.”

Kathy pursed her green lips. “We can’t let it pass without doing something for her. She’s the coolest teacher at Appleton.”

“You know what would be so funny?” It was Josh again. “It would be such a riot if we set up a flash mob for her.”

We all laughed, just imagining it in our heads.

“No, seriously,” Josh said. “We should set up a flash mob for her. Doesn’t she have lunch duty on most Fridays?”

Is this the Josh I know?

But, then, what did I have to lose? “I’m in.” It was the least I could do for Miss Libby, who’d given me a chance to redeem myself with Scotty.

“You’d do that?” Scott appeared absolutely scandalized. “What about those guys?” He again nodded toward the Superjocks. “They’ll never let you live it down.”

“Ask me if I care?”

Scott just sat there, his full spoon frozen just beneath his lips.

When Scott didn’t voice the question, David did. “D-do y-you c-care?”

I looked squarely at David. “Not even slightly. Plus, you should see me dance. It
is something to behold.”

Josh rolled his eyes, because he’d seen it a time or two, but everyone else seated
at the Social Justice League Table nodded and grinned.

“I’ll get together as many kids as I can and I’ll find some music. We can practice at the community center right after school on Thursday. I’ll reserve it.” Marley was always on top of those kinds of things.

That posed a problem for me, though: basketball practice. But I had new priorities. I would work it out. “I’ll be there. How about all of you?”

Everybody nodded again. Scott had turned an enticing shade of pink.

I looked right at him and said, “Then Thursday after school is a date.”

Interested? You can find THE RED SHEET on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Dreamspinner Press.

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win:
one of (2) ecopies of THE RED SHEET
and (2) THE RED SHEET Swag Bag
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five non-pedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Themes Mia always writes about: Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes – only love can save them. You can find Mia on her website, Amazon, Facebook, and Goodreads.
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Frisky Friday–Who’s Up For Some Puppy Love?

Hi all! I’ve been posting a bunch of YA this week, so today I’m tossing out a bit of spicy bone for you all!  A double dose of Pets. What, pray tell, is a pet?

Well, it could be this:

Or, this:

But, what I’m talking about today are humans who have a sexual kink to emulate pets…The first time I encountered this sexual fetish was in Ann Rice’s Beauty Trilogy where unruly princes and princesses were harnessed to carriages and carts like ponies–tail plugs included. I’ll admit to being slightly scandalized, but the more I read and thought about it, the more fun it sounded. Really.

(Somewhere over Chicago a freak flag is unfurled…)

No, seriously, the Pet fetish is fun because we humans are so tender and loving to our pets. More so, I daresay, than to some humans in our lives. As “owners”/caretakers we understand the responsibility of a pet, and we freely accept their uncompromising love.

Except from cats. There we simply accept their disdain, but it’s equitable.

Anywho…on with the reviews!

(The books reviewed below are not suitable for kids.)

First up is a full-length novel by KD Grace. It is wicked fun.

The Pet Shop (The Pet Shop, #1 - 3)About the book:

In appreciation for a job well done, Stella James’s boss sends her a pet – a human pet. The mischievous Tino comes straight from The Pet Shop complete with a collar, a leash, and an erection. Stella soon discovers the pleasure of keeping Pets, especially this one, is extremely addicting. Obsessed with Tino and with the reclusive philanthropist, Vincent Evanston, who looks like Tino, but couldn’t be more different, Stella is drawn into the secret world of The Pet Shop. As her animal lust awakens, Stella must walk the thin line that separates the business of pleasure from the more dangerous business of the heart or suffer the consequences.

My Review:

FOR THE RECORD, I am generally averse to books that do not practice, or mention, safe sex. This book completely skips the STI banter and lots and lots of unprotected sex happens. I still (guiltily) liked it.

Here’s why:
I have a soft spot for books about odd kink. I kinda think they’re the “redheaded stepchildren” in the erotica family. Lots of books out there cater to D/s fantasy, ménage, and even ménage Dom. But what about the Puppies!

Stella is a diligent worker for a British conglomerate that funds environmental work. Her bosses, Anne and Alan, think she’d do better in a new role–so they devise a few tests to see if she can hack it. Essentially, they give her a Pet, Tino, for the weekend.

Now, Tino isn’t an ordinary pet. He’s a Puppy, a man playing a role as an animal. He’s unable to communicate except by “doggie” gestures. He must be kept au naturale, and fed as dogs are, and he’s a bad, naughty, virile pup. Stella is at first aghast. How could he bosses send her what amounts to a prostitute–albeit a kinky one–for a weekend romp?! She tries to send Tino back, but has no way to do so. Overwhelmed with the situation, and mighty aroused, Stella allows Tino to comfort her on the second day. It isn’t smexytimes, at first, but Tino knows how to turn the heat on. We all remember how that Other Stella got her groove back? Well, same here. Steamy, fo sho!

In fact, Stella enjoys Tino so much she tries to book him for another weekend. This is in line with Alan’s plan, even if it upsets Anne. Anne’s worried that Stella will fall for Tino and not be willing to head up the entire Pet Shop enterprise that she and Alan run. It seems a major part of funding the environmental work they do is raised by hiring out Pets, and training wealthy Pet wannabes. (That’s kink-tastic, IMHO, turning tricks to support nature conservancy efforts…BRILLIANT!). Anne wants to move on to begin the North American Pet Shop branch, and Alan and Anne (and Tino) want Stella to take Anne’s place in London, but all this is going on behind the scenes. Also, Anne has had a blistering crush on Alan for years, and is bursting to let him know–but only if he reciprocates….

Meanwhile, Stella meets Vincent, a reclusive American environmentalist, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Tino and acts nothing like her submissive Pet. How can she resolve her desires for the “two” men?

I’m not giving away any more, but the smexytimes happen early and often. They are unlimited in appearance and scope–especially when Stella agrees to undertake some Pet training of her own. Expect ménage, M/M, group, F/F, etc. In short, expect everything. It’s a very sticky, kinky, sexy book from which two HEA’s emerge in the end.

Interested? You can find THE PET SHOP on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

For Round Two I have a M/M puppy fetish novella: Orion’s New Leash On Life.

Orion's New Leash on LifeAbout the book:

The US Recession of 2007 stole Orion Hathaway’s job, his property value, and his savings. With nothing left, he lost something even more important: his mental health. No longer able to afford the fees to his favorite BDSM club, he becomes a hermit, retreating further into depression and the cocoon of his bed until his friends stage an intervention. They have the perfect solution to get Master O back on his feet. Despite his initial reservations, Orion discovers canine therapy might be just what he needs to become human again.

Roan Matthews is used to flaky Masters weirded out by his pup fetish. Deep down, he desires what all dogs want— a forever home. Unwilling participant Orion Hathaway seems an unlikely candidate at first, but Roan realizes if he can help pull Orion out of his depression, perhaps they can make a new home together

My Review:

This quick read was the perfect cure for a lousy day. I don’t know about you, but my fortunes have faded since the economic meltdown plowed through the US, so I felt an immediate kinship to Orion. He’s struggling to survive his debt, and can’t really get past it. Emotionally, he’s on meds and the days blend in his extended unemployment.

Then, his buddies show up with a surprise:  Roan. Roan is a Puppy. He has a bag full of toys and a dog bed and everything. When in his puppy role Roan is a completely subservient male, eager to please his Master and cuddle, play fetch, and eat from his bowl–or his Master’s hand. On the outside, Roan is a trauma nurse. His life is stressful, and dropping into his puppy persona allows him to be fun, and frisky and completely cared for. Orion realizes this; and he’s not sure he’s up for the challenge.

Caring for a Pet requires a lot of focus and effort–something Orion’s been lacking what with his depression, and all. He tries hard, however, and it’s just the tonic his heart needed. In fact, after the first weekend, Orion misses Roan. They agree to try it on again which prompts Orion to clean up his house, and himself. The pride and purpose he experiences caring for Roan is a balm to Orion. By degrees his mood improves–for the first time in months he looks forward to something:  his next session with Roan.

They even hit a BBQ with buddies from the BDSM scene and Orion encounters another Puppy Master. And the socializing restores him. He even meets a contact for a job.

A lot happens in this novella. I liked the scenes. Lots of genuine affection, puppy-style, which gradually changed into human-human affection. It was a sweet tale with a bright ending.

Interested? You can find Orion’s New Leash on Life on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press and Amazon.

If these books don’t get your weekend started, drop me a line about books that turn YOU on!

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends! 🙂

Postcards From the Edge of Love–THE GEOGRAPHY OF YOU AND ME–A Review

Hi there! Today’s book is a YA romance by Jennifer E Smith. I adored THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT, so I couldn’t resist a second effort. THE GEOGRAPHY OF YOU AND ME is another quiet romance about two lonely kids who connect in a New York black out–and then spend very little time together.

So much for romance! you say? Don’t worry, HEA…

The Geography of You and MeAbout the book:

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too

My review:
Okay, so, this review needs some theme music. And, as I’m a hip reviewer, I’m up on all the crazy beats these kids bang these days. (Tongue-in-cheek humor aside, I’m a fan of the Arctic Monkeys). The book, at it’s core, is about trepidation. Fear that the one person you *think* you might like won’t “Like Like” you back. It’s about: Do I Wanna Know?

(Well, to me, anyhow…)

Now, in light of that auditory experience, we can fully appreciate the kind of emotional tension that exists between Lucy–a rich gal with absent parents–and Owen–a poor boy who just lost his mother and home and has to support his grieving, broken dad.

Lucy has had the privilege of a good life, a private school education, and a bunch of nannies. She’s 16 and hardly been anywhere her jet set parents have visited. They’re in Paris when Manhattan goes dark and Lucy’s caught in an elevator with the new super’s teenaged son, Owen. Lucy is an optimistic introvert. She longs for life to begin, but isn’t sure how it should start. Not trapped in the dark with a boy, most likely….

Owen’s 17 and angry. His mother died just over a month ago in a car wreck. His father is a train wreck of grief and unemployment. They moved from a house in Small Town Pennsylvania to a basement apartment to take the building super job. In the posh building, Owen knows he’s second class, and he detests how the city sounds overwhelm and the lights consume the starlight. This is a serious problem for Owen–his passion is astronomy. When the power goes down Owen knows two things: he hates New York, and his dad is in big trouble. His ” field trip” to leave flowers at Coney Island to memorialize their anniversary, has left him miles away from a building in crisis. Still, Owen’s distracted from his grief and fear by the girl whose cheerful nature and love of her city is effusive.

After they are rescued from the elevator they have no one to report to, and no way of reporting–the whole eastern seaboard has no power–so they hang out together all night on the roof of the building. It’s a warm, clear night and the stars are brilliant. Chatting, they give away pieces of theirselves they have never given away before. It’s a little bit serendipity, little bit longing, and wholly innocent. Lucy reveals her deep desire to travel, and her inner hurt that her parents never include her. Is she so unimportant? Owen talks about his mother, and his desire to go to college, but his fear of leaving his dad completely alone in the world. Can he?

In the days that follow, Lucy’s flown to London to join her parents, who are heartsick that she was alone so long in such dire straights. Owen’s father loses his job, and their apartment, and he and Owen decide to go the vagabond route exploring America together.

Their paths separate, but they connect via postcards, and emails. For a bit. See, Lucy’s dad relocates them to Scotland where she’s suddenly more than the bookish lonely girl–she makes friends and snags a delectable beau, but somehow he doesn’t quite “get” her as Owen had. Owen, plagued with a dad who is rootless, settles infrequently and for little time. When they take up in Lake Tahoe he finds a job and meets a girl he likes, but the feelings are superficial and temporary. Meanwhile, he wonders about Lucy and her new life…

A christmastime reconnection with Owen and Lucy is a disaster, and the communication ceases.

For a bit…I’m not telling more, but this is a romance, and there is an HEA. So, there.

I really enjoyed the lyrical language of this book. The kids are human without being stereotypical. The parents are subject to whimsy, which I hadn’t expected, and yet the kids are relatively stable, learning that geography means very little when your heart gets involved. And that’s why Christmas was a bust. They had developed feelings in absencia using the other as a barometer for each new connection.

Their reticence to commit to those feelings, or even divulge them, (see: Do I wanna Know? Above) is classic teen behavior, even if it’s a distance of 7000 miles, instead of a cafeteria, that separates them. I truly enjoyed this introspective, teen read. Again, it’s innocent–the barest of kisses occur–and yet, it somehow felt very intimate. Both Lucy and Owen tell the story, and I thought both characters were well-described, likable and interesting. The build of anticipation is palpable even if the characters wander, muddle, and ponder a lot, so I didn’t trouble over the pace, which seemed almost ethereal.

Like contemporary YA romance? This book is for you.

Interested? You can find at Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Or, try your library. This is a shoe-in for the teen section. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Jennifer E. SmithAbout the author:

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Storm Makers, You Are Here, and The Comeback Season. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and currently works as an editor in New York City. Her writing has been translated into 28 languages.

You can find her on Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Book Blitz and Giveaway! CHALLENGING DESTINY by Cherie Colyer

Challenging Destiny

Release Date: 03/27/14
Summary from Goodreads:
Logan Ragsdale and his younger sister, Ariana, have been marked, chosen to be unwilling participants in a war between angels and demons.

Logan can sense something’s not quite right. Like an unexpected chill on a summer’s day, he can feel the unseen closing in. He’s had these feelings before and, each time, someone close to him died. He’s afraid this time it might just be Ariana.

Logan’s fears are soon confirmed when he discovers their new friends aren’t human, but rather representatives from Heaven and Hell sent to Earth to ensure he and Ariana accept their roles in an ancient prophecy. Demons want Logan to open the gates of Hell. Ariana has the power to stop them, but if she chooses to side with Heaven to spare the lives of thousands of innocent people, she’ll damn her brother for eternity.

Together, they must derail the biblical event if they hope to save themselves and the future of mankind…but what price are they willing to pay to keep the other safe?

My Review:
In this contemporary YA paranormal romance Ariana and Logan Ragsdale are orphaned siblings who happen to have mind-control powers. Logan is 18 and Ariana is 16, both born on All Saints Day, two years apart. Their parents died in an house fire 8 years ago, and their aunt and uncle, who had been guardians, were killed in an auto wreck two years ago. After bouncing to a couple foster homes and finding those caregivers being strangely injured, Logan convinces the Illinois State Foster system to let them live alone…

When we begin the story, Logan and Ariana are staying under the radar of the authorities. Ariana has a BFF, Becca, but they mostly keep to themselves–out of fear that any people close to them are targets for the tragedy that seems to follow them.

Of course, they are teens, so it’s impossible not to notice the two new students in their small high school. Ben is in Ariana’s art class, and interested in dating her. Strangely, he is immune to Ariana’s mind-control. Likewise, Logan meets Kira in Foods class. The attraction simmers, and yes, she can resist Logan’s mind powers.

Starting fledgeling relationships is foreign, but exciting. Still, they are wary due to the lack of effect of their powers on their potential beaux. Especially so when Kira begins to reveal more of her history to Logan. She’s been 16–for a real long time…and most of that was spent in agony. Seducing Logan to her purpose will satisfy the requirements of her boss, but could mean the end of civilization.

Not as though these kids didn’t suspect foul play in the deaths of their caregivers, but who’s really ready to accept celestial explanations? Surely not Logan. He thinks Kira’s off her nut, and rightly so. A little physical demonstration promptly makes him a believer, however.

And Ben? He’s on the other side of this equation. He’s anxious to get Ariana to join his team, even if doing so condemns Logan to a fiery fate.

With new knowledge behind the sinister plot that isolated Ariana and Logan from anyone who could help them, they must choose who to trust. According to a prophesy, a war is coming between the Blessed and the Fallen, and the winner will be decided when Ariana, or Logan, chooses a side to assist.

In either case, accepting their destinies means they will lose each other. Or, not. See, Ariana and Logan are determined to beat the Blessed and Fallen at their own games–and set themselves free of this cataclysmic prophesy.

Not that they go about it right. Outsmarting beings that can read your mind is pretty tough, after all. Escape Plan A soon devolves into Survival Plan C.2 when one of their guides changes teams mid-game and the casualties are dear.

It’s a wild chase with pretty steady tension throughout as Ariana and Logan search for the answers that will divert their fate. The end is tied up, but leaves room for a sequel. It’s an innocent read and suitable for lovers of paranormal YA fiction.

Available from:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo Books

About the Author

A little about myself: I write young adult and middle grade novels. I love finding new stories that keep me up late reading. While my favorite genre is fantasy, if the book is beautifully written with characters that come alive I’m all over it.
My debut novel EMBRACE is now available from Omnific Publishing.

Author Links:
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Book Blitz Organized by:

Mystery and Revelation–TRISTANT AND ELIJAH–A Review

Hi there! Today I want to share a book that I think could make a difference for gay youth. There is no doubt that LGBTQ persons have trouble sharing their “secret”, whether they struggle because they are afraid to lose their family, their friends, or their lives. There are many who believe sexuality is a lifestyle “choice” but I am not among them. I hope that continued gains will be made in both tolerance and legal status for these individuals–and this MY personal preference, mostly because I am a woman who craves equality for ALL, not some.

As a girl, I was empowered by reading Nancy Drew mystery stories because those books showed a girl with brains and mettle. One who did the right thing, even when it meant danger for herself and little-to-no reward, because it was the right thing to do. They provided the positive message I needed to bloom as a bookish young gal with an overdeveloped sense of fairness: That I was OKAY, and to Follow My Own Path–even when those around me thought a girl was meant to be married and pregnant instead of going to college and becoming a professional.

I like “Coming Out” stories for this same reason. They are so fraught with emotional twists. I wish to find those that have some heft to them and provide the same sense of “YOU ARE OKAY” comfort to share with kids that are in need.

TRISTANT AND ELIJAH, by Jennifer Lavoie, provides both a “mystery” and a “coming out” tale, so it thrilled me! It is my fave YA coming out tale of 2014, so far.

Tristant and ElijahAbout the book:
Tristant Whitfield has had a secret crush on straight Elijah Cambridge since the start of high school. He’s okay keeping his distance, but when Elijah starts visiting him at work and bringing his favorite coffee, Tristant begins to wonder if there’s something more there.

Then Elijah uncovers a scandalous old letter from Tristant’s great uncle tucked away in a book, and the two boys begin a journey through journals and letters to discover the real Uncle Glenn and the secrets he hid from his family. And Tristant realizes that Elijah has been hiding something as well.

A secret that just might change everything.

My Review:
Tristant and Elijah are two high school seniors in a small New England town. Tristant is out–has been since junior high, but has never had a boyfriend. He’s a self-described book-nerd with few close friends. Elijah is a good-looking popular boy who Tristant has fantasized about since freshman year when they were partners on a school project. They are acquaintances who strike up a stronger friendship over winter break.

One day while Tristant is working, Elijah pops into the antique shop–seemingly to chat. In fact, that’s all they do. Elijah brings him a coffee; it’s all very exciting to Tristant. This happens again the next day, only the two of them also pore over an old book that had belonged to Tristant’s great-great uncle Glenn. A scandalous letter from a Miss Rebecca falls out of the book–and Tristant is curious about the nature of his ancestor’s relationship with the woman.

Tristant digs deeper into GG-Uncle Glenn’s effects and finds a diary recounting Glenn’s time at college and his friendship, of sorts, with a man named Jesse. Tristant and Elijah read the diary to uncover the mystery of Miss Rebecca and instead learn that Glenn had a whole lot of secrets–secrets that Tristant and Elijah can understand and respect. Especially as Elijah shares the same secret.

I’m not going to say more–it’s easy to see where the book is going at this point–and I truly loved the supportive role that Tristant played for Elijah in his journey. Elijah’s anguish, and Tristant’s empathy and kindness are palpable. These two are really tender boys–and I’m glad that they found each other. The book is almost wholly innocent. There are a few kissing scenes that go no further.

Interested? You can find TRISTANT AND ELIJAH on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Jennifer LavoieAbout the Author:

Jennifer Lavoie lives in Connecticut in the same city she grew up in. While growing up, she always wanted to be a writer or a teacher and briefly debated a career in marine biology. The only problem with that was she’s deathly afraid of deep water. Starting during a holiday season as temporary help, she worked in a bookstore for six years and made it all the way up to assistant manager before she left to take a job teaching. Jennifer has her bachelor’s degree in secondary English education and found a job in her town teaching middle school students. Along with another teacher and a handful of students, Jennifer started the first Gay-Straight Alliance at the school. She is also active in other student clubs and enjoys pairing students with books that make them love to read.

You can find her on her website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Launch Day Book Blitz and Kindle Giveaway: A BEAUTIFUL THOUGHT

Beautiful Thought RDL


Book 4 in the Beautiful Series by Alicia Rae!

ABT Amazon GR SW

A Beautiful Thought Synopsis:

As a physical sports therapist, Gail Bennett is accustomed to working with gorgeous athletes every day, but after falling for a few of these attractive men, she has been left heartbroken one too many times. When Gail’s hours at work are unexpectedly cut, she must find a way to continue helping her parents pay for her sister’s education. Reluctantly following her best friend’s advice, Gail takes on a roommate—with the one man she has been avoiding since the first time she laid eyes on him.

Damon Johnson loves a challenge, and he is not the type of man to back down when he wants something. From the first moment he meets Gail for dinner, he feels an inexplicable pull between the two of them. In his determination to have her, he finds himself helping her in any way he can.

Can Damon break through all the barriers Gail has so carefully placed around her heart and prove that he’s different? Or will Gail’s reservations keep her from falling in love?

One thought could change everything….

Interested? You can get A BEAUTIFUL THOUGHT on Goodreads and  Amazon.

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win

a KINDLE Paperwhite!
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

AliciaRaeAbout the Author:

Alicia Rae is a Contemporary Romance Author who lives in Dekalb, Illinois, with her husband and three beautiful boys. Alicia has a passion for reading all types of romance, writing to bring a story to life, and photography.

“Thank you to my dear sister, Kels, who showed me a few years ago how much I truly missed reading. And to my loving husband, for not throwing away my Nook, and planting the seed of writing in my mind. I am forever grateful. Xo

Readers, words cannot thank you enough for supporting me along this incredible journey. I hope you enjoy my novels as much as I do writing them. I thank each and every one of you.

Believe in yourself and follow your dreams…”

You can find Alicia on her Blog Twitter   Facebook  and Goodreads.