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.
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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!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse March 2017–REVENGE OF THE EVIL LIBRARIAN

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, my favorite read was REVENGE OF THE EVIL LIBRARIAN by Michelle Knudsen. This contemporary YA romance has a whole lotta paranormal, and picks up half a year after EVIL LIBRARIAN left off. I think it’s best of you read these books in order.

About the book:
The stage is set for a fiendishly dramatic summer at theater camp for Cynthia and her boyfriend, Ryan. With no demons at all. Right?

Last fall, Cynthia Rothschild saved her best friend, as well as the entire student body, from the demon librarian, Mr. Gabriel, all while executing the most awesome set design for the school musical, Sweeney Todd. But now that all that demon stuff is behind her, Cyn is looking forward to the best summer ever at theater camp with her former-crush-and-now-boyfriend, Ryan Halsey. Once she gets to camp, though, Cyn realizes this summer might not be all she’s been hoping for. First, Ryan’s best camp friend is a girl (which Ryan had never mentioned to Cyn), and she just happens to be ridiculously pretty. Plus, it seems the demon stuff is not entirely over as Cyn had hoped. At least any new demons that show up to ruin her summer can’t possibly be as evil as Mr. Gabriel. It’s not like he could somehow come back to life to seek his terrible revenge or something. Best-selling author Michelle Knudsen brings back all the hilarity and horror (not to mention hot guys) in this sizzling sequel to Evil Librarian.

My Review:
Cynthia Rothschild is off to have a fantastic summer of theatre camp, designing sets that will (hopefully) earn her a “Tony”. Her sweet, sexy and swoony boyfriend, Ryan, has been attending this camp for years. Years! And he’s sure Cyn will love it. Except, well, he neglects to mention his camp bestie, Jules, is a beautiful, talented female lead. And, Jules isn’t best pleased to meet Cyn–especially as she and Ryan have been texting/emailning over the past seven months and Ryan didn’t think to mention Cyn, or having a girlfriend, at all.

Yeah, so, teen romance drama is on the program, naturally, but this all becomes complicated when Cyn spots a demon in residence, in fact, he’s Peter, camper-writer of the musical Cyn’s been slated to stage. Peter admits to being a demon–but a good one!–who’d never kill anyone and gains his energy from the everyday drama of human relationships. He’s getting a feast off the Cyn-Ryan-Jules thing. Also, Cyn’s demon-repelling powers are in high demand with the demoness who assisted Cyn by destroying Mr. Gabriel, the evil librarian of the first book. As much as Cyn wants to deny the possibility, the book is titled “Revenge of the Evil Librarian.” Expect Mr. Gabriel to come back. What he lacks in style and substance, he makes up for in sheer malevolence. Even Annie’s at risk again, until Cyn can come clean about all her secrets and get her friends on board for a demon-take-down.

Ryan and Cyn struggle with trust issues, Peter’s eager to step-in as Cyn’s leading man, and demons, demons, lots of scary demons. The tension isn’t quite so high as the first book in this series, but there’s a lot more of the demon world, and the stage has already been set for murder and mayhem. Ahem. I really liked how Cyn owned her foibles and gave her focus to the most important issues: saving the humans, first. The rest of the emotional problems–hurting Ryan, losing friends, keeping her sights off the sexy flirting demon playwright–had an appropriately lowered focus, so it didn’t seem cartoonish. The pace is tense, the battles are gruesome and the enemies are many and horrific. I couldn’t stop turning the pages by the end.

Interested? You can find REVENGE OF THE EVIL LIBRARIAN on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your local library. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About Author Michelle Knudsen:
I’m the author of 45 books for young readers for all ages. Titles include the New York Times best-selling picture book Library Lion (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes), the middle-grade fantasy novels The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian, and the YA novel Evil Librarian, which won the 2015 Sid Fleischman Award for Humor(!).

I also work as a freelance editor and private writing coach. Please visit my website to learn more if you’re interested – I especially love working with new writers! I’m also now teaching in Lesley University’s MFA program in writing for young people.

Catch up with Michelle on her website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in my friends. Be sure to check out my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers to see if their “best book” picks strike your fancy, too.

Making Friends With A BOY WORTH KNOWING–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a YA M/M supernatural romance from Jennifer Cosgrove. A BOY WORTH KNOWING features a socially-isolated clairvoyant high school senior, and the new boy in school who befriends him.

Catch the excerpt below and enter to win a free book in the giveaway, too!
About the book:
Ghosts can’t seem to keep their opinions to themselves.

Seventeen-year-old Nate Shaw should know; he’s been talking to them since he was twelve. But they aren’t the only ones making his high school years a living hell. All Nate wants is to keep his secret and keep his head down until he can graduate. That is, until the new boy, James Powell, takes a seat next to him in homeroom. James not only notices him, he manages to work his way into Nate’s life. But James has issues of his own.

Between dead grandmother and living aunt, Nate has to navigate the fact that he’s falling in love with his only friend, all while getting advice from the most unusual places.

Ghosts, bullies, first love: it’s a lot to deal with when you’re just trying to survive senior year.

How about a little taste?

James didn’t bail in the upcoming week. Or the one after. And Horror Movie Sunday seemed to be well on its way to becoming a thing. I’d gotten better at ignoring the ever-present shade of James’s brother, mostly because all of my attention was on James. Yeah, it was bad. Really bad. I was setting myself up for disappointment, but my heart didn’t seem to give a damn what my head said.

That was unbelievably sappy. I had a huge crush on my only friend, and I didn’t know what to do about it except ignore it. Sounded like a plan.

At least at first. I calmed down a bit and kept the awkward at bay as we spent more time together. It became a regular thing to text each other stupid stuff before bedtime, when we’d talk about anything and everything. The regularity of it made the butterflies calm down when I saw him in person during the day.

Then one Saturday, he asked if he could stay over. I didn’t ask why, but I got the impression something had happened at home, and he wasn’t ready to tell me. And I had no idea if I should ask. Was it really my business?

James walked in without knocking—that had gone by the wayside a few weeks before—and plopped down in a kitchen chair. He looked utterly miserable.

“Hey.” God, what had happened? His voice was flat and even his hair looked dejected. Should I say something or let it go? I just wanted to be a good friend.

“Um. Hey.” Very eloquent, Nate. You suck.

James looked up, smiling weakly. The reflection off his glasses made it hard to see his eyes, but they seemed to look okay. Maybe they weren’t as sad as they were a moment before. The smile fell away, but he didn’t look quite as bad as when he’d walked through the door. “Sorry, not having a good day.”

Ask. Don’t ask. Ask. Don’t— Oh, the hell with it. “What’s going on? You want to talk about it?” God, I was terrible at these kinds of situations.

He looked up at me, and for one horrifying moment, I thought he was going to cry. His mouth did a weird crinkly thing that I never wanted to see again. James looked away

and took a few deep breaths, obviously trying to get himself back under control. He took his glasses off and swiped at his eyes with his sleeve. “Sorry.”

I wavered for a few seconds before pulling out the chair across from him and sitting down. Deep breath. “Look, there’s obviously something going on. You don’t have to tell me, but I just want you to know that you can. If you want to.” Where did that come from?

“Nate, I—” He looked down at his hands, picking at the edge of a thumbnail.

A movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention; his brother’s ghost was standing there, looking at me. Expectantly. Like I was supposed to know what to do. I blew out a breath and waited. I wasn’t going to push.

Finally, James gave me a small smile. I breathed a sigh of relief; he wasn’t ready to talk about it, and I wasn’t quite prepared to help him. “No, I’m—I’m good. Thanks again for letting me stay here tonight.”

Relief washed over me. “So, what do you want to do?”

My Review:
Nate Shaw is a high school outcast, ostracized by his schoolmates and his own mother–all because he sees and speaks with ghosts. It’s a lonely life for Nate, living with his aunt and having no friends in his small Ohio town. He’s got a good sense of humor and he’s endearingly sweet, despite his busted heart.

James is a new student and immediately turns to Nate for friendship; the mean girls want a piece of James, but he’s not interested. His family relocated from Cincinnati after James’ brother David was killed in a car wreck. Nate’s intrigued by James, and wary of David’s ghost who clings to James like a glowing shadow. James is a kind boy, who seems to want friendship with Nate, for reasons Nate cannot fathom, but he’s eager to make the most of this opportunity. And it doesn’t hurt that James is good looking, smart and loves old school slasher flicks just like Nate.

Over time, James spends more time at Nate’s home than his own, and he begins to confide in Nate regarding David’s death. Nate feigns surprise, mostly because David had already told him the sordid tale, trying to get Nate to dissuade James from searching for motives and a possible cover-up. He’s a grief-stricken kid, wishing someone besides David was responsible for David’s death. Nate is a great friend to James, and harbors a quiet crush. It’s rather deflating when James starts dating a girl, though. Well, until James learns that Nate is interested.

This is a sweet and mostly innocent YA romance with lots of supernatural elements, because Nate meets several ghosts in the story. I really enjoyed the snappy prose and self-deprecation. Nate’s a survivor of sorts, and totally admirable. James makes some missteps, mostly because he’s oblivious–according to David’s ghost. The characters all come off as decent people, excepting the mean girls and Nate’s ridiculous mother. It was an interesting twist that Nate’s mom kicked him out for speaking with the dead, not his sexuality. That said, it’s a good read with a very happy ending. It’s “mostly” innocent, because James and Nate spend a little bit of time making out, and a very little bit of time exploring each other sexually–like a page or two. It’s all teen appropriate, and the respectful way they treat each other–and the adults treat them–will be appealing for all readers. I really liked this one, and would definitely recommend it for readers who enjoy teen romance, and positive diverse books.

Interested? You can find A BOY WORTH KNOWING on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a book of your choice from Nine Star Press.
Good luck, and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Jennifer Cosgrove has always been a voracious reader and a well-established geek from an early age. She loves comics, movies, and anything that tells a compelling story. When not writing, she likes knitting, dissecting/arguing about movies with her husband, and enjoying the general chaos that comes with having kids.

Catch up with Jennifer online on her website, twitter, and Goodreads.

Tough Life For a DO GOODER–A Review


Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for an intriguing YA adventure from j. leigh bailey. DO GOODER features two gay teens in big trouble in Central Africa. I’ve loved the new adult M/M romances I’ve read from this author, including FIGHT TO FORGIVE and RECKLESS HOPE, so I plucked this one out of my queue for a TBR Thursday feature.

About the book:
No good deed goes unpunished, and for seventeen-year-old Isaiah Martin, that’s certainly the case. The gun he was caught with wasn’t even his, for God’s sake. He only had it to keep a friend from doing something stupid. No one wants to hear it though, and Isaiah is banished—or so it seems to him—to live with his missionary father in politically conflicted Cameroon, Africa.

However, when he arrives, his father is so busy doing his good deeds that he sends Henry, the young, surprisingly hot do-gooder with a mysterious past, to pick up Isaiah and keep him out of trouble. Even while Isaiah is counting down the days until he can go home, he and Henry get caught in the political unrest of the region. Kidnapped by militant forces, the two have to work together to survive until they are rescued—unless they manage to find a way to save each other first.

My Review:
Isaiah Martin is a high school senior at a private school in Wisconsin when he tries to help a friend in dire need. His best friend is having severe home troubles, and Isaiah finds her near school with a gun in her lap–Isaiah tries to remove it and gets arrested for possession. His mother, a high powered attorney, gets his arrest expunged for probation as long as Isaiah spends the summer volunteering with his missionary physician father in Cameroon, Africa.

Isaiah isn’t thrilled with the idea, mostly because he hasn’t even heard from his father in the nine years since he and his mother moved back to the States. And, he’s really not happy when his dad can’t even make it to the airport to pick him up. Instead, Isaiah is collected by Henry, and young and attractive man who’s been working at the mission for a couple years. Isaiah is sullen and petulant, and the ride to the mission is two days long and arduous–including a stopover for fresh medical supplies.

There is some level of bonding as these two spend a day and night together, but it gets serious when Isaiah, a diabetic, struggles with his insulin pump–and Henry gets bitten by a venomous snake. Oh, and when the armed guerillas take them captive in an effort to locate components of a chemical weapon? Yeah, that really kicks this adventure into high gear.

DO GOODER was an engaging YA adventure, with openly gay characters caught in a high stakes plot. It felt very well-researched, and had elements of suspense that far surpassed the critical zone. Isaiah is literally slowly dying from DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) over the course of their imprisonment. Trusted friends are slaughtered, and it seems like only one–if either–of these boys will make it out alive. The anguish Isaiah feels because of his father’s political ties is extreme, and Henry’s self-sacrificing activity is more than a little harrowing. I really enjoyed how close these kids bonded, though the book is sexually-innocent, and ached for both of them when “rescue” comes to pass. It was a little hard to follow the timeline, because Isaiah is the narrator, and he’s overcome by disorientation that accompanies DKA. That said, the confusion gave an authentic feel to the point-of-view and kept the tension high.

Interested? You can find DO GOODER on Goodreads, Amazon, Harmony Ink, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the author:
j. leigh bailey is an office drone by day and the author of New Adult and Young Adult LGBT Romance by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of… well, everything…but some habits aren’t worth breaking. She’s been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She’s a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation or paranormal affiliation deserves a happy ending.

She wrote her first story at seven, which was, unbeknownst to her at the time, a charming piece of fan-fiction in which Superman battled (and defeated, of course) the nefarious X Luther. She was quite put out to be told, years later, that the character’s name was actually Lex. Her second masterpiece should have been a best-seller, but the action-packed tale of rescuing her little brother from an alligator attack in the marshes of Florida collected dust for years under the bed instead of gaining critical acclaim.

Now she writes New Adult and Young Adult LGBT Romance novels about boys traversing the crazy world of love, relationships and acceptance.

You can find j. leigh online on Facebook, her Facebook Author Page, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping, and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse February 2017: A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL–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 recommending Eric Lindstrom’s A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL, a newly-published YA adventure through bipolar disorder. Having read and LOVED his debut, NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST, (featuring a blind protagonist) I’m really enjoying Mr. Lindstrom’s ability to bring marginalized characters to the page in living color.

tragic-wonderfulAbout the book:
For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to keep everyone at arm’s length. And when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.

As the walls of Mel’s compartmentalized world crumble, she fears the worst—that her friends will abandon her if they learn the truth about what she’s been hiding. Can Mel bring herself to risk everything to find out?

My Review:
This is a contemporary YA novel about a character with severe bipolar disorder still learning how to cope with the ups and downs of her emotional world.

Mel Hannigan is a seventeen year old girl struggling through her days with a newly (one year) diagnosed bipolar disorder. Her elder brother, Nolan, also suffered this disease, as does her Aunt Joan–who they all call HJ or “Hurricane Joan.” Nolan, who we only meet in flashback, died four years ago–in an accident that stemmed from his mania. Since his tragic death, her parents have divorced and Mel lives with her mother and HJ. She’d also lived with her grandmother, but she died a year ago after a battle with stomach cancer.

Mel works in the Silver Sands, the same nursing home where her grandmother spent her final days. It’s a touchstone place, for her, where she has many friends among the residents, including Dr. Jordan–a retired psychiatrist. He helped “diagnose” Mel before she had her first manic episode–and subsequent crash–just over a year ago, now. At that time, Mel was having a break with her group of friends, losing Annie, Conner and Zumi when she backed away following a fight and power play which coincided with an inpatient stay for treatment of her mental issues. Now she balances a cocktail of prescriptions designed to keep her moods even, and has two close-ish friends Holly and Declan, who brought her school work home over the period of her long absence and recovery–which everyone believes was for mono and bronchitis, not bipolar disorder.

When the book picks up, Annie has inexplicably reached out to leave behind childhood relics with Mel for Conner and Zumi–mementos of their friendship–because Annie’s family is moving to Paris and she doesn’t want to confront either Conner or Zumi regarding this life change. Turns out Annie isn’t a nice person, and Zumi was desperately crushing on her. Mel knows it will break Zumi’s heart, and the stress is fracturing her grip on her moods. Right about then, Mel meets David, grandson of one of the elderly residents at Silver Sands, and they strike a cautious friendship–which could lead to more. They both seem to want this, but Mel is reluctant because she doesn’t think she–the gal with the broken brain–is really worthy of love. Surely someone “normal” is better suited for everyone. Just look at HJ! She’s the life of the party and pretty, but no man will settle down with her.

Okay, so, being in the mind of a person with a mental condition like bipolar disorder is never easy. There are bouts of mania and depression, and episodes of disordered thinking and obsessive-compulsive behavior. That’s not all of the book, but those moments exist and they ramp the tension up high as we’re not quite sure where Mel will go, or what she will do, when she’s manic, or obsessive. She does a LOT of checking in with her body and mind, and talking to responsible adults about her mental well-being, with is fantastic. Her aunt’s not a great influence, because she’s sure that Mel’s missing out on life, doped up and quelled by medication. Joan is currently unmedicated, but her strong personality doesn’t sway Mel from her chosen course to medicate–because she knows how things can go tragically wrong for someone like herself–like Nolan–when there’s no meds on board. And, unfortunately, in her periods of mania she sometimes misses doses, leading to a downward spiral that results in another bad episode.

I really liked this book because it didn’t feel varnished. It was a challenge, however, to keep up with Mel, and I think I’d have liked more information about Nolan up-front. That said, going along the winding path and following Mel into the rabbit hole of her racing mind was eye-opening. Having dealt with emotional wellness issues in myself and close family members for decades now, it was a journey I’m familiar with, and felt resonated off the page. Mental illness is never an easy read, but Mel’s upbeat and committed choice for medical care was refreshing. I really appreciated the rich support network that assisted Mel, and how her fears of being abandoned once people learned her real “illness” weren’t reinforced.

There’s a hint of romance, but it’s not the focus. Instead, the real-life dramas of friendships dissolving and new ones forming are the center of the book. These stressors are common for teens, which provides the context for grasping Mel’s underlying medical problems, and makes her reaction to those stressors accessible, even in their extremes.

Interested? You can find A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Thanks for popping in, and be sure to check out the book-of-the-month recommendations from my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers…