Young and Questioning HAVING HER BACK–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a YA transgender romance from Ann Gallagher (aka: L.A. Witt). HAVING HER BACK is a tender and age-appropriate novel about acceptance, friendship and love–and contains the right amount of teen misunderstandings and angst. I liked LEAD ME NOT, another low-steam “Ann Gallagher” book, and I love YA romance, so this was an auto-pick for me.

Scroll down to enter the giveaway for a backlist book from LA Witt.
About the book:
Trevor Larson is a Navy brat. He’s used to moving every few years, and thanks to social media, he can stay in touch with the friends he leaves behind. But shortly after he leaves Okinawa, his best friend, Brad Gray, cuts off contact and disappears.

Four years and two bases later, Brad resurfaces—and announces his family is coming to Trevor’s base in Spain. But a lot’s changed in four years, and Trevor is stunned to find out Brad is now Shannon. Their reunion isn’t quite what either of them had hoped for, but they quickly find their footing, both relieved to have each other back.

Except nothing is ever all sunshine and roses. The military is a small world, and there’s no keeping Shannon’s transition a secret. Parents warn their kids away from her. She can’t attend school on-base for fear of harassment or worse. And although her parents try to hide it, being ostracized by their only social circle while they’re thousands of miles from home is taking a toll on them too.

More and more, Shannon leans on Trevor. But she’s also drawn to him, and he’s drawn right back to her, feeling things he’s never felt for anyone before.

Trevor’s scared, though. Not of dating a trans girl. Not of damaging his chaplain father’s career or reputation. After finally getting his friend back, does he dare take things further and risk losing her a second time?

My Review:
Trevor is a 16 y/o Navy brat on a base in Rota, Spain. He’s grown up moving every few years when his dad, Pastor Larson, a Protestant chaplain, gets reassigned. Sometimes he meets up with friends he’d made in DOD schools at other bases, and that’s the case in Rota. He’s lived there a few years now, and a few of his better pals from the Okinawa base are now in Rota, but not his very best friend Brad. Brad shipped out form Okinawa and dropped off the face of the earth, it seemed, because he wouldn’t respond to any of Trevor’s emails, IMs or texts. It’s been four years, and Trevor’s stunned to get an email from Brad saying he’s coming to Rota in a month, and he’s changed. A lot. Trevor wonders if that’s because Brad’s gay and bad things happened when he moved form Okinawa. Trevor’s determined to be good friend to Brad, no matter what.

Shannon is a transgender girl, who used to be Brad. It’s been a hard four years but she’s transitioned well, and feels good in her body for the first time, perhaps, ever. She’s had a lot of backlash in her personal life, though her parents completely support her, even if they all suspect her transition may have caused her dad not to make his promotion that past two years. Still, she’s being homeschooled, and trying to keep a low profile; unlikely in the small circle of families that make up overseas bases.

Trevor is stunned when he meets Shannon, and pretty angry she didn’t trust him enough to divulge her big secret before they met in person–or at any time in the past four years. His reaction isn’t excellent, but Shannon interprets his swift departure as a rejection of her new self, and that’s a stumbling block. Trevor does make it up to Shannon, and Shannon fits into their group of Okinawa friends without too much issue. There are some quakes in the personnel, however, and Shannon’s the center of some anti-trans sentiment that’s sweeping the base, including members of Pastor Larson’s congregation. It’s upsetting for all, but Trevor’s more confused about his changing feelings for Shannon. They shared a deep friendship as kids, and now when he thinks back, he doesn’t see “Brad” in those memories, he sees Shannon, and he’s not sure what to do with his growing attraction to her. What if they break up and become enemies, as some of his buddies have with their exes?

This book is told from Trevor’s and Shannon’s point-of-views and that’s really interesting. I liked how culturally-competent the characters’ inner thoughts, actions and dialogue are. These are kids who are have fought hard to maintain friendships, and they aren’t willing to toss Shannon aside because of her transition. In fact, all of Trev’s pals accept her wholeheartedly into their group, and their girlfriends invite Shannon on shopping trips and makeovers. The kids also stand up for Shannon when she’s accosted in public or put-down in conversations they overhear. Trevor’s mistakes with Shannon come from his own insecurity, and aren’t related to her transition.

The intimacy that develops between Trevor and Shannon is cautious and tender. Trevor just got his best friend back…he doesn’t want to mess things up by being a bad boyfriend. He’s never even dated a girl before; realistically he’s sure he’ll mess up and they’ll stop speaking again. Shannon’s never dated and she is insecure about her body, and how a partner would view her body. It leads to some discord between them, that has a good resolution in the end.

This is a YA read, so expect YA-levels of steam, and nothing more. That said, there are some unique experiences here due to Shannon’s physiology and that provokes some valid and frank discussion. I liked how sensitively that was handled, and the introspection both Trevor and Shannon demonstrate is valuable for people who have concerns about trans-persons and their relationships. Shannon didn’t expect to find a partner who could love her as she is, and has a reasonable fear of fetishization, though she doesn’t think Trevor sees her as a fetish. She’s also nervous that he’ll be unhappy with her physical state, and that’s an anxiety-triggering situation. Trevor’s more afraid of being a bad partner, given his lack of experience. It was really endearing and felt realistic. The military aspect of this story likewise felt well-informed, and I could absolutely see all the sights in Rota and nearby, just as Shannon did. Yet another locale to put on my travel bucket-list. Readers who enjoy teen romance, or trangender stories, will really enjoy this one. I know I did.

Interested? You can find HAVING HER BACK on Goodreads and Amazon US or UK.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book from LA Witt.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of L.A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Cephalopod Coffeehouse July 2017–WASTE OF SPACE-A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

So this month I’m sharing a book that surprised me greatly, in the very, very, end. WASTE OF SPACE by Gina Damico is a book I picked up and put down half a dozen times, but I’m glad I didn’t give up.

About the book:
Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show.

And, it’s a hit!

Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.

 

My Review:
This book is a wild ride, and not because the characters are jettisoned into space. Far from it. It’s a satirical look at “reality TV” giving the complete lowdown from the able assistance of a low-level PA who got fired and handed enormous amounts of raw footage of the Waste of Space TV show produced by DV8 Studios.

The premise is this: DV8 wants to make a show about regular kids on a space station, but that’s unrealistic, and expensive, so they partner with NASAW–a shadowy conglomerate whose scientists know lots about space and time–to build a fake space station (complete with IKEA furnishings) that can house ten teens for two months. Along the way, DV8 management bullies and coerces everyone to insist that this show is taking place in space.

Kids line up in malls hoping to become part of this cast; some a fame-hungry, some are looking for a way out, others are looking for a new life altogether. The teens are cast to fulfill certain roles, and the stereotypes they reflect. It’s a weird mix of Big Brother and Space Camp, and the audience is in on the joke from the get-go. That said, there’s still lots of surprises in store. Like, what happens when the uppity/vile nephew of the TV show’s producer is going to get axed? (Bring on the big guns…) What about the party girl–any more bras to display? The token minorities are messing up the chemistry, and there’s plenty of clueless to go around.

The telling of this story is a disjointed collection of transcripts from video recordings, cell phone calls and business meetings. There are roughly 15 POVs, so that’s a jumble. It took me a while to settle in, though I caught on to the sympathetic POVs in the early going. Nico and Titania are the heart and soul of the story–two kids who’ve been altered by tragedy. They are searching for more—meaning and acceptance, and they don’t go in for DV8’s shenanigans. The DV8 exec, Chazz, and his nephew Clayton are the typical reprehensibles, pulling all the strings and cutting despicable deals. I was pleasantly surprised by “Bacardi” and “Snout” and saddened by Louise. I had thought I wasn’t touched much by the book, then the end hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest. The storyline was a sleight of hand that morphed from zany and unpredictable into intense and emotional.

I’m not going to belabor the plot; some of the kids are desperately hoping to be a part of a space mission. Others know it’s gotta be hoax. The DV8 and NASAW folks are doing their utmost to convince the world their show is “real.” In the mix some true connections are made, and dare I say: the most fervent wishes of several of the cast are made real. I was pleasantly surprised how all the seemingly random plot threads were stretched and connected and eventually woven into an unexpectedly picturesque tapestry. For fans of reality TV, this book is a piercing commentary on the genre of entertainment, and how we consume fiction–in any medium. Expect plenty of showmanship, and deceit, and double-crossing. Expect subtle commentary on American xenophobia and racism. And if you read through to the end, expect to be surprised, and maybe delighted. Like I was.

Interested? You can find WASTE OF SPACE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:

In Gina Damico’s words:  I grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. I received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, where I was active with the Committee for Creative Enactments, a murder mystery improv comedy troupe that may or may not have sparked my interest in wildly improbably bloodshed. I have since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker, and breadmonger.I live in Western Massachusetts with my husband, two cats, one dog, and and obscene amount of weird things purchased at yard sales.

You can find Gina on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in! Be sure to check out the reviews of my pals in the Coffeehouse–they always pick some great reads.

Growing Through LESSONS IN FALLING–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA romance from Diana Gallagher. LESSONS IN FALLING is a story about growing up and making your path, even if it means outgrowing some relationships.

About the book:
LESSON ONE: Playing it safe beats taking chances.

After an injury ends Savannah’s dream of a college gymnastics scholarship, she quits
despite her parents’ protests. She won’t risk breaking her body—and heart—again.

LESSON TWO: Catch your best friend when she falls—or regret it forever.

Rules are meant to be broken, according to Savannah’s best friend, Cassie—and it’s more fun to break them together. But when Cassie attempts suicide, Savannah’s left wondering how well she really knows her.

LESSON THREE: Leaping forward, not knowing where you’ll land, is the hardest of all.

Falling for Marcos wasn’t part of the plan. Not only did he save Cassie’s life, he also believes Savannah can still achieve her dreams. Except Cassie thinks Marcos and gymnastics will only break Savannah’s heart.

As Savannah tumbles and twists through toxic friendships and crushing parental expectations, she realizes you never know who will be there when you fall.

My Review:
Savannah is a sixteen year-old former gymnastics champion who’s still recovering from the knee injury she suffered six months ago. She’s had surgery and physical therapy, and can’t imagine going back to gymnastics because she can’t be perfect.

She lives in a small coastal New York town that’s having a social crisis over the large number of immigrant Mexicans and DREAMers who’ve taken up residence in this locale. Savannah’s always been sheltered by her family–her father’s a teacher at her high school, an d her best friend, Cassie–who’s loud and audacious. Cassie stayed at Savannah’s bedside as she recovered from injuries and surgeries, and shes’ struggling hard, but Savannah’s too caught up in her own misery to really notice, until Cassie attempts suicide.

Then, Savannah starts to question all their interactions, Cassie’s newer friendships with kids from the migrant community, and why Savannah can’t just get past her paralyzing fears. Part of this is re-envisioning her life, and letting in new people, like Marcos, who help Savannah see that sometimes the relationships we hold dearest aren’t the most healthy.

For me, this was an okay read. I liked the parts where Savannah challenged herself to get back on the pommel horse and rehab completely. She had more friends in her life than she’d first let on, and Cassie was a good-ish friend, I thought. She struggled, sure, but her affection and compassion were unquestioned. Savannah seemed way more self-centered than I was comfortable with, and Marcos urged her to be even more so. I wasn’t really upset about that, because it is important to find one’s own path, but Savannah’s actions came off as callous and borderline negligent. I do understand that some friendships are co-dependent and unhealthy, I get that, but the manner of Savannah’s reckoning and reconciliation were awkward and unkind. Considering how attentive Cassie had been to her, Savannah’s own actions felt mean by comparison.

The subplot of anti-immigrant sentiment and violence was odd, and Savannah’s interaction on this front was, uh, nutso? That’s probably not a clinical term, but how she behaved was beyond rational and the resolution of that crisis was entirely too convenient.  I also had an issue with elements of the timeline. Savannah’s family life was weird, and her brother’s experience in the military was intimated to be far longer than the actual year that it would have been, if a reader (like me) did the math. There’s a little bit of romance, and lotta bit of rehab–both physical and emotional–with Savannah finding her true path back to her old life. This time she has some new pals, a boyfriend and a college plan. It’s got heartwarming moments, even if Savannah reads as analytical and cold.

Interested? You can find LESSONS IN FALLING on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your local library. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Though Diana Gallagher be but little, she is fierce. She’s also a gymnastics coach, writing professor, and country music aficionado. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and writes about flipping-related activity for The Couch Gymnast. Her work has also appeared in The Southampton Review and on a candy cigarette box for SmokeLong Quarterly. She’s represented by Tina Wexler of ICM Partners.

You can catch up with Diana on her website, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse June 2017–THE SUFFERING TREE-A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m featuring a paranormal YA story that has a dash of romance and dash more controversy. THE SUFFERING TREE by Elle Cosimano has been getting very mixed reviews, but I liked the story, even as I struggled with some of the plot-points. Also, the blurb doesn’t mention that the MC has a SERIOUS emotional problem which manifests as cutting. Again, controversy.

About the book:
“It’s dark magic brings him back.”
Tori Burns and her family left D.C. for claustrophobic Chaptico, Maryland, after suddenly inheriting a house under mysterious circumstances. That inheritance puts her at odds with the entire town, especially Jesse Slaughter and his family—it’s their generations-old land the Burns have “stolen.” But none of that seems to matter after Tori witnesses a young man claw his way out of a grave under the gnarled oak in her new backyard.

Nathaniel Bishop may not understand what brought him back, but it’s clear to Tori that he hates the Slaughters for what they did to him centuries ago. Wary yet drawn to him by a shared sense of loss, she gives him shelter. But in the wake of his arrival comes a string of troubling events—including the disappearance of Jesse Slaughter’s cousin—that seem to point back to Nathaniel.

As Tori digs for the truth—and slowly begins to fall for Nathaniel—she uncovers something much darker in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree. In order to break the centuries-old curse that binds Nathaniel there and discover the true nature of her inheritance, Tori must unravel the Slaughter family’s oldest and most guarded secrets. But the Slaughters want to keep them buried… at any cost.

From award-winning author Elle Cosimano comes a haunting, atmospheric thriller perfect to hand to readers of the Mara Dyer trilogy and Bone Gap.

My Review:
Trigger warning: this book has intense and graphically described instances of the MC cutting her skin as a means to cope with her grief and isolation.

16 year old Tori Burns is new to rural Chaptico, Maryland. Her adoptive mother, brother and herself mysteriously inherited twenty acres of land and a home smack dab in the middle of the Slaughter farm, bequeathed by Al Senior upon his death several months ago. It was just in time, too, as Tori’s family had been recently evicted from their apartment. (There’s some shenanigans about this that I’ll describe later.)

Tori hasn’t been the same since her adoptive father died a year ago. Since then, she’s quit swimming–though she was an expert swimmer–because she can’t imagine doing it without her father cheering her on. Also, she’s begun cutting her skin to mask the grief she’s experiencing. Her arms and legs are covered in scars, and she regularly presses on healing cuts to induce pain when necessary. She’s an outsider in her school which has lots and lots of Slaughter kids, all of whom have the status. Jesse Slaughter is the typical king of the school, and Tori can’t figure out why he’s talking to her and asking her to Homecoming.

One night, when the pain is too great, Tori runs out to the small graveyard on the edge of the property and digs a sharp branch into her arm. The blood shed releases a centuries-old curse and, inexplicably, a man from his shallow grave. Tori’s appropriately horrified by the advent of this former-servant of age-old Slaughter Farm, Nathaniel, and that’s only the beginning. She’s plagued by nightmares of the Chaptico Witch, Emmeline, who was the love of Nathaniel back in the seventeenth century.

So, you can see, this was a really different plot line. The POV shifts between 1690s Nathaniel’s memories, the present-day, and dreams/visions Tori experiences from Emmeline’s magic. Because, she was a witch, and she did love Nathaniel enough to preserve him until he could fulfill his sworn duty to protect her.

There are many interesting themes here: dealing with grief, learning about your history, becoming the person you were meant to be, doing the right thing, as well as the folly of greed and the horror of locking down one’s family skeletons. I think I didn’t really get hooked until about a third of the way through, mostly because I was a little stupefied by some of the issues Tori faces.

See, her mom is a volunteer art teacher. Her father dies and has no life insurance, leaving them essentially destitute. They have no other family and are on the verge of eviction. Sorry, I’d be working at a paying job, folks. And, the grief really isn’t an excuse for me. The whole set-up seemed shady, and it put me off. I almost had less trouble accepting the magical resurrection of Nathaniel than their real-life crisis of near-homelessness. Also, her mom is practically unable to keep this family together. Beyond driving and painting, she has virtually no life skills despite being a mother for 16+ years. It was insulting, honestly. So, shenanigans. I call it.

The isolation Tori experienced was far easier to accept as a reader. New girl in a small town. She’s odd and weird. No doubt she’ll struggle to fit in. The double-crosses were to be expected, and I didn’t think that was a deficit. Plot-wise, I liked the interwoven POVs and I liked Nathaniel, a lot. Tori, at times, seems deliberately obtuse, but she comes to terms with her position in the tangled history with Nathaniel, Emmeline and the Slaughters past and present. It doesn’t help that the current Slaughters are experiencing unprecedented tragedy–including blight, fire and death–and they pin it to the arrival of Tori and her family. It’s a mystery why these events are occurring, to everyone but Nathaniel, Tori and an elderly black neighbor who knows more than her family with believe.

I liked how this turned out in the end, with much faster pacing and a tumultuous climax. For me, the book is an interesting allegory for the power of greed to destroy and of love to reclaim/redeem. That said, it’s still troubling how little assistance was available for Tori, with both her grief and her cutting.

Interested? You can find THE SUFFERING TREE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and your local library, probably. It released a few weeks ago. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Thanks for popping in. Be sure to check out the fave read of my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers by clicking the links below. Keep reading my friends!

Out Today and FREE: SWEET SIXTEEN on INKLO


Hi there! Today I’m sharing info on a new release and a new reading app from Brenda Rothert. SWEET SIXTEEN is a contemporary YA romance and is being released in episodes for free via the INKLO app. Check out the info below.

About the book:
In Roper, Missouri, football is everything. At least, to everyone but high school senior Gin Scott. Gin plans to escape her hometown as soon as she graduates, but her plans to stay under the radar until then are ruined when her secret crush, quarterback Chase Matthews, offers her a coveted spot as one of the Sweet Sixteen.

It’s an honor Roper girls dream of, but for independent Gin, it’s more like a nightmare. By rejecting Chase’s invitation, she is ostracized from her classmates, and eventually, most of her town.

How sweet it is.

About INKLO:
INKLO is a mobile app and digital self-publishing platform that turns written stories into real-time, social experiences.
The app is very user-friendly. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you will be able to follow authors and/or stories to read the new chapter posted each week. Reading stories on INKLO is and always will be FREE.

Interested? You can find SWEET SIXTEEN on INKLO and it can be read for FREE! You can read an episode each week on the INKLO app and even react to it in real time! Chat with your friends and follow the book to be notified of new chapters!

All you have to do is download the INKLO app, find the book, and click “follow”.
Go to the INKLO site for more details…

About the Author:
Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.

You can find Brenda on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Wattpad, Amazon, or sign up for her newsletter.
InkSlinger PR Blogger Banner - New

Cephalopod Coffeehouse May 2017–IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE-A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m featuring a YA romance from Christina June. IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE is a bittersweet story of one girl’s perspective shifting dramatically when she’s grounded for the summer–for a crime she didn’t commit.

About the book:
Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client).

When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

My Review:
Tatum Elsea is a sixteen y/o girl caught in a bad situation. Her rebellious bestie was dating bad boy–and she’s just been charged as an accessory to grand larceny when the idiot steals four iPhones from a store and jumps into Tatum’s car.

Tatum’s parents are supremely disappointed, not that she’s ever felt like anything less than a disappointment to her perfect stepmother. Tatum’s friend is furious, and missing-in-action after her fed-up father ships her off to a boarding school. Tatum’s charges are dropped in exchange for 100 hours of community service and a $500 fine, which she has to pay herself. And, she’s essentially under house arrest for the entire summer. Sure, her step-sister Tilly is home, but they hardly ever speak. Tilly’s gifted, and a dancer at an elite high school for the arts–that disappointing Tatum didn’t gain acceptance into. Her beloved father is away on a diplomatic mission to Africa, too, so it’s just Tatum, Tilly, the step-monster and Blanche, her step-grandma. Blanche is a free-spirited gal, though, and proves to be one speck of happiness in an ocean of frustration, as far as Tatum’s concerned.

This is a bittersweet story that ends up being really awesome. The beginning is all about separation–Tatum’s support networks all disappear–but she cobbles together new ones, and forges better connections within her world as a result. Tatum’s got a lot of trouble in front of her, and it’s not exactly all her fault. I could really sympathize with her anger over the way her parents treat her. It’s not as if she planned the arrest; she was being a friend to her bestie, and had no idea the boyfriend was a thief. And, I also thought their treatment of her was overly harsh. As an outsider to Tatum’s life, the narrative is structured to throw her stepmother into the harshest light possible, which is misleading. The lack of communication was frustrating, for me as a reader and mother. I can’t imagine being so high-handed and never explaining why. Sorry. That said, I liked how Tatum found constructive ways to survive her punishment, and earn her fine payment. She’s a great girl who’s in need of a hug, probably several everyday. Her life, though it isn’t terrible, hasn’t been easy wither, and she could have used some counseling at some point. Or, hey, a human conversation every now and again. I get that her step-mom had issues, but be an adult, for goodness sake. Even her daughter was terrified of her critique.

In the midst of this summer, Tatum recognizes that she’s making friendships–and perhaps more–with the few people with whom she’s interacted this summer, both in community service, and her new business venture. It’s sweet seeing Tatum vindicated in the end, with her bestie making all the right moves better late than never. And, a little romance, too. Tatum’s summer that started with goodbye ends up ending with bliss. Sweet, innocent and having strong themes of making it through hardship while dealing with overbearing parents, this book will appeal to most YA readers.

Interested? You can find IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo and your local library, no doubt.

About the Author:
Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters. Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, was published by Blink/HarperCollins in May 2017. You can find Christina on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and be sure to check out my fellow reviewers’ fave books of May in the Coffeehouse.

Updating the Classics: SEEKING MANSFIELD-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-released YA romance from Kate Watson. SEEKING MANSFIELD is a contemporary re-telling of MANSFIELD PARK, an Austen novel I haven’t read.

About the book:
Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.

When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.

But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

My Review:
4.5 Stars for this contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s MANSFIELD PARK.
Finley Price is sixteen and living with her godparents, the Bertram’s, now that her famous actor father has died and her abusive alcoholic mother is in jail. The Bertram’s have three kids, Tate, Juliette and Oliver—who is Finley’s best friend—even though he has a giant crush on Finley. Juliette is mean and petty, and their aunt is spiteful and awful, pretty much telling Finley she ought to behave like a servant in the Bertram household.

Finley is a theater aficionado, and been working stage crews for years. Her deepest desire is to be a part of the Mansfield Theater Program, but she lacks the confidence to apply—and to ask for help. Oliver wants to send the application in for Finley, but listens to his father’s advice on the subject. Oliver just wants what’s best for Finley—and for her to seek it for herself. New neighbors, Emma and Harlan Crawford arrive, and their status as teen movie stars is exciting to everyone but Finley. She’s used to blending into the background, and is afraid Harlan will make things difficult. He once starred in a movie with her father.

New friendships and relationships develop, with power-brokering happening too. Emma is sweet on Oliver, but she recognizes that Finley needs to be a priority in his life. For me, it seems manipulative, and the blurb gets it right that Harlan pursues Finley mostly out of boredom and the desire for a challenge. That said, Finley isn’t easily won over, and there are lots of peaks and valleys in the myriad love stories that are taking place. It’s kind of a love-square (as opposed to a triangle) situation and I know that’s not cool for all readers. For me, the love angles can be summed up thusly: if you can’t be with the one you love…(honey)…love the one you’re with.

I really liked Finley, and those who’ve read Mansfield Park all agree that she’s a far more interesting and strong heroine than her model (Fanny Price). Finley’s survived a lot of challenges, and she faces new ones with compassion and strength. For all the love stories in the book, this is a clean read with just kissing on the page. That said, there are allusions to off page sexcapades, which form the base of the final conflict.

As a YA book, it felt accessible and interesting. I think teens will be interested in the theater aspects and celebrity issues, which update the plot for modern readers. The HEA comes on the closing pages, and it seems like there could be more of this story to tell.

Interested? You can find SEEKING MANSFIELD on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kate Watson is a young adult writer, wife, mother of two, and the tenth of thirteen children. Originally from Canada, she attended college in the States and holds a BA in Philosophy from Brigham Young University. A lover of travel, speaking in accents, and experiencing new cultures, she has studied in Israel and lived in Brazil, the American South, and now calls Arizona home.

Her first novel, SEEKING MANSFIELD, debuts in Spring 2017, with the companion novel to follow in 2018. She is also a contributor to Eric Smith’s Welcome Home adoption anthology coming in 2017.

Find Kate on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!