Tough Road to FINDING HOME–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently released YA story with a touch of M/M romance from Garrett Leigh. FINDING HOME is a touching tale of a troubled teen boy trying to protect himself and his younger, deaf, sister once they fall into the foster care system. I’ve really liked MISFITS, WHAT REMAINS, HOUSE OF CARDS, and JUNKYARD HEART, so I was eager to read this one.

<a href="https://vsreads.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/finding-home.jpg”>About the book:
How do you find a home when your heart is in ashes?
With their mum dead and their father on remand for her murder, Leo Hendry and his little sister, Lila, have nothing in the world but each other. Broken and burned, they’re thrust into the foster care system. Leo shields Lila from the fake families and forced affection, until the Poulton household is the only place left to go.

Charlie de Sousa is used to other kids passing through the Poulton home, but there’s never been anyone like his new foster brother. Leo’s physical injuries are plain to see, but it’s the pain in his eyes that draws Charlie in the most.

Day by day, they grow closer, but the darkness inside Leo consumes him. He rejects his foster parents, and when Charlie gets into trouble, Leo’s attempt to protect him turns violent. When Leo loses control, no one can reach him—except Charlie. He desperately needs a family—a home—and only Charlie can show him the way.

My Review:
This is a contemporary YA story with a hint of M/M romance set in England.

Leo and Lila Hendry were unwilling witnesses to their mother’s murder, and barely survived the fire their abusive father set to their home. At fifteen, Leo’s had a rough life, and his outbursts of temper are causing problems with their foster placements. Getting sent to the Poulton’s home is a last-ditch effort to re-home them together.

Charlie de Sousa has lived with the Poulton’s since he was a toddler. He’s fifteen and out-gay, always struggling to fit in in school. Though the youngest kid in this foster home, Charlie was formally adopted years ago. Still, his parents know how soothing a personality Charlie has, and they hope he can help Leo mellow out. Lila is shy and skittish, but Leo is openly hostile to Charlie’s dad. Something Charlie can’t understand. Both his parents are the most generous and loving people he’s ever known. His mom suffers some hearing loss and all the kids can sign, which helps Lila fit right in–and unsettles Leo.

The more time Charlie spends around Leo, the more he recognizes the signs of PTSD–night terrors and irrational hatred of certain men. He does become a buffer, of sorts, sometimes coming into Leo’s room to lay a comforting hand on him when the nightmares are too fierce. Also, there’s an attraction. Charlie definitely thinks Leo is cute, but he’d never force himself on another boy–he has no idea that Leo feels the same. An unplanned moment of intimacy leads Charlie to make a terrible decision that nearly gets Leo arrested. Just when it looked like Leo had gotten the better of his temper issues, too.

There’s a whole lot to this story that I haven’t mentioned. It’s dark and troubled; the kids all have tough backstories and we get a front-row seat to Leo’s tragic family. The love he feels in the Poulton’s home is enough to draw Leo into therapy for his anger issues, and seems to be the home he’d always dreamed of. I loved the ending of this story, and how fantastically this foster family operates. Charlie and Leo do have a wee bit of passion for Charlie and Leo, but it’s age appropriate and a small part of the narrative. The bigger part is coping with one’s self, and finding a way past tragedy. Charlie’s such a giving kid, and his eagerness to make Leo and Lila welcomed shined through. Expect some pretty graphic scenes–including drinking, fighting and some drug use. It all felt very realistic, and bittersweet. I loved it, honestly.

Interested? You can find FINDING HOME on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.

Otherwise you can find her on her website, twitter or Facebook.

Stranger-Danger? EIGHT DAYS ON PLANET EARTH–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Keeping with my pre-Halloween “weird” theme, I’m sharing a review for a soon-to-be-released YA adventure romance from Cat Jordan. EIGHT DAYS ON PLANET EARTH is the story of a boy who’s given up on space-stories…then finds a supposed “alien” girl on his property.

The book releases 11/7, but you can scroll down and pre-order it today! Also, enter the giveaway to win 1 of 3 $10 Amazon GCs or one of two signed copies of the book.

About the book:
How long does it take to travel twenty light years to Earth?
How long does it take to fall in love?

To the universe, eight days is a mere blip, but to Matty Jones, it may be just enough time to change his life.

On the hot summer day Matty’s dad leaves for good, a strange girl suddenly appears in the empty field next to the Jones farm—the very field in rural Pennsylvania where a spaceship supposedly landed fifty years ago. She is uniquely beautiful, sweet, and smart, and she tells Matty she’s waiting for her spaceship to pick her up and return her to her home planet. Of course she is.

Matty has heard a million impossible UFO stories for each of his seventeen years: the conspiracy theories, the wild rumors, the crazy belief in life beyond the stars. When he was a kid, he and his dad searched the skies and studied the constellations. But all of that is behind him. Dad’s gone—but now there’s Priya. She must be crazy…right?

As Matty unravels the mystery of the girl in the field, he realizes there is far more to her than he first imagined. And if he can learn to believe in what he can’t see: the universe, aliens…love…then maybe the impossible is possible, after all.

A heart-wrenching romance full of twists that are sure to bring tears to readers’ eyes, from Cat Jordan, author of THE LEAVING SEASON.

My Review:

Matty Jones is a high school junior on summer break when two things happen on the same day:  his unemployed UFO conspiracy-theorist father walks out, and a strange girl claiming to be an alien appears in the fallow field on his family’s defunct farm. Matty’s furious with his dad, a man who’d been slipping away from his responsibilities for years. His mother is devastated, but Matty had seen this coming.

Matty had grown up knowing that his dad was big into space and UFOs. It was local legend that an alien aircraft landed in their field on the night his father was born–but the government washed away the evidence. Still, Matty and his dad spent ages outside on the their twin telescopes searching the night skies for something out there. His dad blogged, and over the past few years the tenor of the blog had shifted from informative to conspiracy-oriented. Along with this, his dad pulled away from Matty and his mom–even going so far as to have affairs with some of his ardent blog followers. Matty thinks good riddance to his slacker dad, and is frustrated that his mom even harbors any hope he’ll return.

Meanwhile Priya, the “alien” in his field, is busy collecting data about Earth. Her home planet, she reveals, is deep in the Libra constellation, and Matty’s too lonely and downhearted to simply brush her off. He wants to believe that Priya is a confused girl who’ll move on soon–like all the other UFO lunatics his father had ginned up over the years. But, there’s clearly something wrong with Priya–she is dressed bizarrely–in a tutu and wearing a platinum wig over her dark hair–and has trouble with balance that she ascribes to differences in Earth’s gravity. She can read Matty’s thoughts, and it unsettles him. She also struggles with language, and he thinks maybe she’s from a different country, completely discounting the notion that she’s possibly an alien.

She’s still in his field the next day, and the next, and the more time Matty spends with her, the more he wants to be near her, even as she resurrects good memories of time spent with his dad. The conflict is real for Matty, but so is the compassion. He and Priya share some intimacy over this time, each night watching the skies for her ship to arrive and whisk her back through the wormhole to her planet.

Matty’s friends draw attention to Priya’s weirdness, and it leads to the big crisis and reveal of Priya for exactly who she is. It’s a good and honest twist, that breaks Matty’ s heart while at the same time restoring the abandoned bond between himself and his father. Though that makes it sound a lot more complicated than it is. At it’s core, this is a story about a boy falling for people who leave him behind, and learning how to deal with that. Matty is a strong character, a good guy who felt real. He’s not perfect; he’s a slacker like his dad, and plans to spend his summer riding dirt bikes, visiting the beach and getting high with his best friend. His encounters with Priya open his eyes to the wonder of his mundane life, and foster a new sense of purpose that he may, or may not, pursue.

The truth of it is, there are mysteries in this world that can’t be explained completely, and must be taken on faith. Gravity, Priya asserted, was one of those. Love, as Matty learned, was another. It’s a sweet book, with a heart-tugging resolution that fans of YA will really enjoy.

Interested? You can find EIGHT DAYS ON PLANET EARTH on Goodreads and pre-order it in advance of its 11/7 release on Harper Collins, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Indie Bound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win 1 of 3 $10 Amazon GCs or one of two signed copies of the book.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author In Cat jordan’s words…

When I was a teenager, the very first book I ever tried to write was pretentious and stilted and set in a future where there was no paper. Obviously, I fancied myself another Ray Bradbury (who I was thrilled to meet not once but twice!). The book had an awesome title and no plot but I had the most fun creating the characters and the world they lived in. That to me is the most enjoyable part of writing a novel: envisioning a world and populating it with all kinds of people and dogs. Gotta have a dog.

The worlds I create now as an adult are based on my travels from coast to coast in the US, to Europe and Mexico and Canada, and on the people I have met and loved and admired and feared. And dogs.

Currently I live in Los Angeles. With my dog.

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

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.
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