Spotlight & Giveaway: But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure

 

BUT THEN I CAME BACK9780544531260_hresAmazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Goodreads

Pub. Date: April 4, 2017

 

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Eden Jones, a 17-year-old girl, feels lost after surviving a near fatal accident. Unable to connect with her family and friends, Eden forms an unlikely relationship with Joe, a boy who comes to the hospital to visit Jasmine, a friend who may soon be gone forever. Eden is the only person who can get through to Jasmine, but is she brave enough to face a world that’s bigger and more magical than she ever would have allowed? 

authorEstelle Laure is a Vonnegut worshipper who believes in love and magic and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theater Arts from New Mexico State University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and thinks everyone should have to wait tables or work in a kitchen at least once in their lives. She lives in Taos, New Mexico with her children.

Website | Twitter |Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram

giveaway

3 winners will receive a hardcover of BUT THEN I CAME BACK, US Only. 

Enter Giveaway

Tour Schedule

Week One:

3/27/2017- Literary Dust- Interview

3/28/2017- The Best Books Ever – Review

3/29/2017- Novel Novice- Guest Post

3/30/2017- Portrait of a Book- Review

3/31/2017- Literary Meanderings- Excerpt

 

Week Two:

4/3/2017- YA Book Madness- Review

4/4/2017- Don’t Judge, Read– Review

4/5/2017- Tales of the Ravenous Reader– Interview

4/6/2017- Just Commonly– Review

4/7/2017- Wandering Bark Books– Excerpt

Keep reading,

Jordan

ARC Review: Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

things i should have knownGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy. Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy.

Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan, who form a quirky and lovable circle, will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

review

4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & HMH Books for Young Readers

I’ve read a ton of books lately that I’ve loved, but this is the first book in maybe years that I can honestly say I’m grateful for. There are so many beautiful things that happen in this book and they’re done so well that you might not even notice until it hits like an epiphany and the biggest of those things is spreading awareness. People make assumptions and judgments about what autism is, how those who have it should function (or not) in society, and say offhand comments that are both offensive and ignorant. This book does a fabulous job of making people think about what they say and their prejudices against those who are different. Some parts are profound in their simplicity and eye-opening with the totally real and heart wrenching examples that happen in everyday life. 

What’s great about this book is that it showcases various forms of autism that show up on the spectrum. Not all autism is the same and mannerisms, behaviors, and what upsets each person is totally individual. No two cases are identical and how to cope with anxiety, sadness, and rapid mood changes varies immensely. You really have to know the person to understand. Claire LaZebnik stresses that point in the relationships between Ivy and Chloe and David and Ethan. Their parents are not as observant or patient as they could/should be and the siblings know each other best.

When Ivy or Ethan are upset, Chloe and David break through their defenses, ask them questions, and notice when they start tapping or talking louder that these are signs of distress that an outsider would not pick up on. When kids are “freaking out” in public we have a tendency to be dismissive and judgmental, to say it’s poor parenting, the child is a brat, or get angry because they’re “spoiling” your day. Several times throughout the book, Ethan and Ivy are pitied, looked down upon, and their opinions rejected because they “don’t know any better,” it made my blood boil just reading those words. There’s a scene where they’re at the bowling alley and these old ladies make comments about “them” being allowed out and whether they should use bumpers “for safety”, which could be a legitimate concern if there was a visible problem but the condescending approach, speechless. 

Ivy and Ethan are incredibly real. If you’ve ever met someone with autism, you’ll recognize the blunt, factual commentary, focus on a specific niche or activity, and trouble processing the “why” question in regards to emotions and feelings. This book will truly make you think about things you might have never considered. How does someone who may not process/understand or know how to convey their feelings deal with lust or attraction? I mean, this is so so important. If someone who has autism has questions about this, how do they know if they’re attracted to the same sex? The LGBT dimension of this book is challenging and urges the reader to question. The conversations between Ivy and Chloe are fueled by understanding and asking matter of fact questions that lead Ivy to come to her own conclusions. These are model conversations and full of so much love. 

David is an intriguing character. He’s sarcastic, cold, antisocial, and yet, there’s something about him that’s compassionate and will win your heart. The way he adores his brother and is willing to sacrifice his future for him, total swoon material. Don’t get me wrong, he’s abrasive and takes a bit to get used to, but he’s a catch. 

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Chloe. The way she let terrible comments roll off her, the way she let her boyfriend and friends say stuff about Ivy, like she was abnormal or a mistake conflicted with the understanding and love she showed her sister. At first, Chloe seemed like an opinioned, flighty, typical popular girl and I pretty much loathed her. She fought one moment and shut down to keep her hot girl status the next. She does grow as the story progresses but it takes a long, long time. 

Sometimes the pacing was slow because they focus was on the lust between Chloe and her boyfriend, which was full of semi-repulsive groping and horrible comments about Ivy and the fact that the boyfriend didn’t get enough attention because she was always helping out her sister. Just no.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review & Giveaway: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

BLLOOD ROSE REBELLIONFinal Blood Rose coverAmazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Audible/Goodreads

Pub. Date: March 28, 2017

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The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

review4/5 Stars 

*** I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & the publisher

Blood Rose Rebellion is a beautifully written thrill ride complete with thought-provoking views on equality, prejudice, and feminism. 

Blood Rose Rebellion is a stunning historical look at Hungary and the politics that sparked the uprising in the 1800s plus fairy tale elements and rich folklore. As a historian who studied Hungary during this period, particularly the poetry that sparked the revolution, I absolutely LOVED how history blended with magic and it still made a point to correct dangerous prejudices that still circulate today. From the food, to the clothes, to the behaviors and mindset of the characters, everything was rich and memorable and made total immersion possible. I felt transported in more ways than one. 

Anna is daring, occasionally naive, headstrong, and so ahead of her time. The way she views social classes, injustices, and what roles a woman should have in society are as revolutionary as the uprising in Hungary itself. Preach girl, preach. Anna is far from perfect. She is stuck in a horrible position, has been manipulated by her heart, and her desire to fit in is a heartbreaking motivation that she can’t resist. Anna says some seriously profound stuff. She owns up to her mistakes, she recognizes that she has been brainwashed by ideology, she apologizes, and what’s best is that she learns and corrects herself. Thank you! Finally. 

The magic, the lore, and the class wars mesh perfectly. This is one of those books you look at and think, how on Earth did this all fit together so well? But it does. It flows, it’s poetic and political, and as whimsical as it is dark. The fire of the revolution burns bright throughout. The fairytale creatures are menacing, twisted, and sometimes scary, but others are full of heart and helpful. Magic is neither good or evil, nor are the creatures. The descriptions float off the page. Amazing. If you’re looking for new paranormal creatures, search no further. 

One of the greatest lessons within this story is that we all have the power to make choices and decide who we want to be-freedom is deserved by every individual, but what they will do with that freedom is up to them. I paused and lingered over this section. There’s a conversation with a demonic creature who is basically the incarnate of the deadly sins and it is he who poses this question to Anna. When you give someone who has been imprisoned their freedom, there’s no telling which path they’ll choose. That’s the beauty of choice. 

The Roma. I have been waiting for someone to get this right. Derogatory terms are corrected through characters and how they are treated today and were treated in the 1800s is a poignant and important history lesson that everyone should learn about. I appreciated the sections that talked about their camps, the way they feel about their children, their beliefs, just wow. 

And the romance. It’s like a magical pulse that beats through the story growing and glowing with anticipation. That kiss is one of the best I’ve ever read in YA.

You’re probably asking why I gave this 4 stars when I clearly loved so much of this story. The major issues I had were with pacing. Some sections dragged significantly, though it picked up fast towards the end. Another was the complete disappearance of her family after she leaves for Hungary. Even the letters, there were so few. I expected more. The relationship is so strong is the beginning and her love for her younger brother so warm that it was weird that they fell off the face of the planet. I also figured out what was going on with Anna at 30% through. So that was mildly disappointing for me, but I think it will be a surprise for many readers. 

authorRosalynWebsite | Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr | Pinterest | Goodreads

Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.

She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works. Rosalyn is represented by Josh Adams of Adams literary.

Her first novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, first in a YA historical fantasy trilogy, debuts Spring 2017 from Knopf/Random House.

giveaway

3 winners will receive a signed finished copy of BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, US Only.

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Tour Schedule

Week One:
3/20/2017- BookHounds YA- Interview
3/21/2017- YA Book Madness- Review
3/22/2017- Page Turners Blog- Guest Post
3/23/2017- Fiktshun- Review
3/24/2017- NovelKnight- Review

Week Two:
3/27/2017- Once Upon a Twilight- Interview
3/28/2017- YABC- Interview
3/29/2017- Emily Reads Everything- Review
3/30/2017- Two Chicks on Books- Interview
3/31/2017- Book Briefs- Review

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Lovely reading, 

Jordan

Review: Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine

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A father and daughter reconnect after a life spent apart to find their mutual love of art isn’t the only thing they share.

Sixteen-year-old Iris itches constantly for the strike of a match. But when she’s caught setting one too many fires, she’s whisked away to London before she can get arrested—at least that’s the story her mother tells. Mounting debt actually drove them out of LA, and it’s greed that brings them to a home Iris doesn’t recognize, where her millionaire father—a man she’s never met—lives. Though not for much longer.

Iris’s father is dying, and her mother is determined to claim his life’s fortune, including his priceless art collection. Forced to live with him as part of an exploitive scheme, Iris soon realizes her father is far different than the man she’s been schooled to hate, and everything she thought she knew—about her father and herself—is suddenly unclear. There may be hidden beauty in Iris’s uncertain past, and future, if only she can see beyond the flames.

review

3/5 Stars 

Fire Color One is a kind of Vonnegut meets Palahniuk brand of bizarre and insightful. The kind of book that’s blunt, raw, and challenges perceptions by showing people as they are in all their horrible glory. 

PROS:

  • Insightful, honest looks at the hard truths. Sometimes people are flawed and corrupt and greedy and sometimes those people are your family. Not everyone is redeemable, not everything is sunshine and roses and crystal clear. The shades of gray are vast in each individual. Fire Color One explores the complexity of human nature and the relationships that manifest between the most unlikely of people. Characters are nuanced.You love to hate them and enjoy their randomness. 
  • The story is creative. Pyromania, getting into Iris’ head and how the fire makes her feel was beautifully written and thoughtful. There are some serious epiphanies in this book that read like concise and thought-provoking life advice. The way art functions in the story is equally as magnetic. The twist is epic and a long-game revenge that will make you feel gleeful and satisfied. 
  • Hannah and Lowell are these laughable caricatures of truly despicable people who are so real it’s unsettling. Greedy, selfish, verbally abusive, Iris is seen as a burden and a mistake. Their characters were the most developed. Some of their personality traits and actions and laugh out loud funny because they are so ridiculous and occasionally sickening. Absolutely pathetic, money-hungry people. 

CONS:

  • As flawed and compelling as these characters are, they’re mere glimpses into their personalities. It felt like the author was just scratching the surface. She laid the foundation, but she could have taken many characters much further and it would have made for not only a better story but stronger connections to each character, whether good or bad. Characters that were inherently interesting were foisted for the main character. For all of the influence Thurston has on Iris, he’s only seen in snaps that fade away. There’s hardly any interaction or even voice. It’s stuff you hear secondhand and don’t entirely experience. The same with Iris’ father. The emphasis was always off. 
  • The book was super short and would have benefited from more development in terms of exploring characters and how they related to Iris, her pyromania, and how she perceives the world, i.e. Thurston and her father. Instead, the story seems packed into the last handful of chapters, rushed after a very slow pace, and while it did help to magnify the twist, it was jarring and offset the whole book. 50+ more pages would have fleshed out the story, but what was actually presented felt a little like a summary.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Pleasant reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz: The Pepper Jones Series by Ali Dean

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This series includes all five books in the coming of age series that has readers of all ages hooked. If you haven’t already fallen in love with Pepper Jones and the cast of characters in Brockton, Colorado, now’s your chance to follow Pepper through her high school and college years while she tries to balance books, boys, and being a track and field star.
author
Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin toddlers, and golden retriever. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.
Dramatic reading, 
Jordan

Release Blitz, Review, & Giveaway: Chalk Houses by Tracy Clark

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Everyone has a secret. Now Secret is talking.

 

Talon Alvarado has one goal – to be nothing like her mother who’s blown it in about every way. But sometimes you focus so hard on what you don’t want that you find yourself careening toward it. Bombarded with history, hurts, and secrets, Talon is struggling to be the person she yearns to be and to live a bigger life than girls like her are supposed to wish for. To climb out, she must dig for strength in the most unlikely place; the rubble of her bruised heart. 

The misty presence of Secret reveals its role in Talon’s life, showing how the secrets we keep tell our stories. 

 

Chalk Houses is a gritty, achingly hopeful story about love being in the places you forgot to look, and about starting over. Even at the end. 

review4/5 Stars 

***I received this ebook as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author 

+++Contain triggers for abuse, assault, loss

Chalk Houses is an exploration and evolution of the secrets we keep and the havoc they can wreak despite the purest of intentions. Full of authentic characters, achingly real situations, and painful truths, Chalk Houses will make you question your assumptions and look beneath the masks we wear.

I always love Tracy Clark’s books. I’ve read every release. This is no exception. Chalk Houses is a change from Clark’s typical subject matter, but as engaging and raw as her other reads. 

Talon is abrasive, confrontational, and throws verbal punches that have a crippling power. Her sarcasm and jaded view of her mother are sometimes so dark and acerbic that you kind of feel bad for her mother. At first, I didn’t like Talon as a person. She’s constantly taking jabs at her mother and is so wounded by her past that she’s blinded to the changes and attempts her mom is making to build their relationship. What I loved about Talon was how much she changed. Assumptions are dangerous and after a pattern of neglect from her mother with no explanation-secrets kept-Talon holds almost no sympathy for her mess up of a mother. But when the secrets come out, Talon’s world is thrown off its axis. Everything she assumed about her mother is reversed with such force and shock that it will make you dizzy and hurt for how much was lost between Talon and her mother. The more lies that turn truth, the more Talon opens her mind and her heart. She’d always been stubborn and thought she knew everything about her mother, responsibility, and what it takes to raise a child, but man, is she put in her place. It’s like a harsh awakening, but so real. Tracy Clark never shies away from those hard truths that bite.

There are several harrowing, but prevalent and triggering situations that happen in this book, such as all shades of abuse, verbal, sexual, physical, and substance, and attempted assault, as well as tragic loss. These scenes are raw, sometimes graphic, other times blunt and brutal, and occasionally told in pieces that let you fill in the blank. The emotions vary from distanced to terrifying and poignant. Trust me, you’re going to be hit right in the feels for most of this book. 

There were some things that drove me nuts. Besides Talon’s initial attitude, all of the signs that are ignored or forgotten about as life got in the way. It’s frustrating and you’ll want to scream at the pages, but THIS happens all the time. 

Talon’s “relationship” with Jay made zero sense to me. For someone with such strong ideas, that she puts up with him was baffling. Now, Bones. He’s incredibly real, honest, calls Talon out on her unfair perceptions, and makes her look closer, even when she doesn’t want to. His life hasn’t been easy. They share secrets and he gets her in a way that no one else does and most importantly, he doesn’t give up on their friendship. 

Secret is personified here. It’s a living, breathing entity that makes snide comments one minute and surprisingly heartfelt ones the next. I loved those little pieces of Secret’s mind. They were truths that people are scared to face and so they blanket themselves in the false warmth of lies. She (I read it as she, though I assume Secret has no gender) warns of the dangers keeping so many secrets have on every aspect of life. 

The mystery of Aunt T was pretty predictable for me. 

Excerpt


I come to you only when invited.

You decide if you want to share your life with me. But a warning…

Once I’ve entered your door, you’ll find it very hard to sweep me out.

SECRETS take up space.

1

Empty houses hold their breath, waiting for life to blow back in.

I bet you didn’t know this.

It doesn’t mean a house is lifeless when no one’s home. A house can be lifeless with every chair filled. I’m not lying when I say there’s never been a house, hovel, tent, or cave that I haven’t occupied, if only for a moment.

I am there in drawers and journals, closets and emails.

I am there in hearts.

Oh, the hearts are my best hiding place.

This house was nearly empty but for the girl with her dull hair and crackling eyes.

Holding her breath.

Waiting.

 

Talon Alvarado, party of one.

The sunset was her cue to get the celebration started. She told herself she’d wait until dark but even that was a stupid deadline. She’d been waiting for her mother her whole damn life.

What’d she expect? Better to resist expectations, really. Expectations were flimsy balloons inside her chest, inflated with hope. And when they popped, they saturated her soul with disappointment. Every time.

There would be no balloons for her sixteenth birthday.

There would be music, however, and Talon told herself: if you don’t play that birthday song by The Beatles on your birthday and hop around the living room like a fool for two minutes and forty-two seconds, then you just don’t have adequate mojo.

As the sun set, the light in the house faded to darkness like it was on one gigantic dimmer switch. Talon hurried to flick on both the living room lamps and the kitchen light and peered out the window at the black moonless night – the exact shade of loneliness. Morbid thoughts had no business attending her birthday party, but life felt so dark sometimes that Talon struggled to see tomorrow.

Unable to find any birthday candles, she went to the dresser in her mom’s room to get the bumpy remnant of a melted votive, which she lit with matches from her mom’s favorite Basque bar. She carried the candle back to the kitchen and placed it in the middle of the table, then moved to the cupboard to find a saucer. The only clean one was chipped and reminded her of the flaked front tooth of one of her mother’s ex-boyfriend’s. The Hostess Cupcake she bought fit neatly in the saucer’s middle like they were made to go together.

The candle flame spat and fizzled, daring her to put it out. I’m seriously not gonna sing to myself, she thought stubbornly. But Talon did close her eyes before blowing the candle out with a hurricane force of a wish.

Someday.

After nibbling off the seven squiggles of white icing, Talon ate the waxy chocolate top of her cupcake. The rest flew in the trash but not before she tongued out the crème-filling, duh. While the cupcake served its purpose, her mouth still held the aftertaste of bitterness.

As she made a couple of sandwiches, one for dinner and one for school lunch the next day, headlights tracked across the kitchen. She peeked through the dusty, dented aluminum blinds, surprised to see her mom getting out of the car, cradling a big bucket of fried chicken on her hip like a toddler. DB-18, otherwise known as Frank, carried a grocery bag in each hand. No doubt, one bag had beer in it.

“Talon! We brought dinner!” her mom, Lisa, yelled from the living room.

Talon stepped into the doorway of the kitchen, turkey sandwich in hand. “I hunted and gathered for myself.”

Lisa’s smile broke, sliding like loose soil on a hillside.

“Mom, seriously…you’ve been…gone. Why would I think you’d bring home dinner?” They stared, glared, glowered; a familiar language in which they’d both become fluent. “But I can use the leftovers for dinner tomorrow. Thanks,” Talon quickly added, then wondered why she’d thrown her mom a flotation device, especially when she’d obviously forgotten her birthday.

“It’s the thought that counts, right?” said Frank as he put the beer in the fridge. He had that same shaggy-mutt look that came standard in all her mother’s boyfriends. Talon turned her back to him. Can’t I ever have mom to myself?

Since birth, Talon had felt like one of the satellite moons in Lisa’s planetary orbit. Her childhood was an unreal and treacherous place where the yellow brick road was full of trap doors. She wanted to believe there was a home for her on the other side of the rainbow, where she had a family that really knew her and loved her anyway. She knew what she’d ask the wizard for: Love.

But then “love” was just another four-letter word.

Under the harsh fluorescent kitchen light, her mom’s eyes were fogged and rimmed with red, as if she’d been crying, or smoking weed—probably both. “Sure you don’t want some?” Lisa asked as she and DB-18 seated themselves at the small flea-market table now crowded with unpaid bills, empty glasses, chicken, bland cobs of corn, doughy biscuits, and beer. Talon reached for a drumstick, knowing it was a greasy peace offering after their fight about how there was never enough food in the house.

A fly landed on the table next to the chicken and Frank deftly flipped a mason jar over it.

“Swift, grasshopper,” Lisa joked, and they giggled all stupid like the kids at school.

That fly had to be frustrated, banging itself against the glass. Talon flipped the jar and freed the fly because she couldn’t stand the sound. Its droning and tapping was too close to the noise in her own head.

Frank shrugged and bit into his extra crispy as Talon hopped onto the counter, mulling over a casual way to ask her mother something important. She had one thing on the brain: the essay contest at school. The theme was Family, which was seriously ironic.

“Soooo, there’s this writing assignment at school about, um, family…” No one looked up. She swallowed a salty chunk of chicken and forged ahead. “…and since I know nothing about ours, I thought maybe you could help me out?” Talon pinched her knees to stop her jumpy legs from bouncing against the cabinet.

Pausing mid-bite, Lisa glanced at Frank, their eyes holding for a split second. The silent, intimate conversation between them made jealousy nip at Talon’s heart. When her mom finally looked at her, Talon hoped a miracle was about to occur, that Lisa was actually going to share something. Usually when she tried to pry info from her mom, the “Great Wall of Lisa” rose up, impenetrable.

“Just make something up. I’m sure it’ll be more interesting than anything I could tell you. As long as it’s written well, they’ll never know the difference.”

Yup, the Great Wall was as sturdy as ever.

The genealogy of Secret: Evasion, a close relative of mine. Also related: Lie. Ours is a mad, mad family. We’d invite you to dinner but chances are, you’re already seated at the table with napkins under your chins.

Something sparked inside Talon, as though she had a lighter wedged in her chest, ready to ignite with the slightest friction. “I’m not asking for your entire life story here. Just give me something, anything. In the interest of scholastic achievement?” She wasn’t going to give up that easily.

Lisa slowly wiped her hands on the stinky moist-towelette and sighed. “Okay. When I was little, I had a pet bunny that I adored.”

DB-18 smiled and touched her arm. “You did? I had a lizard named Private Property.”

“What? Who names their lizard Private Property?” Mom asked, laughing.

“Someone who doesn’t want his four brothers to touch it.”

The two stoners tittered and ate, oblivious to Talon still waiting for a real answer.

“Seriously? That’s it?”

“But I—”

“A bunny? It astounds me how you opened up. Let me just go and get started on my in-depth, revealing essay about my mom’s pet rabbit!”

“Trust me, Talon, you do not want to hear about your relatives.”

Talon’s nostrils flared, bullish. “Here’s what’s wrong with that statement: A) The words trust me, and B) you don’t know what I want!”

“I am not going to do this with you right now,” Lisa said, scooting from the table.

“Yeah, cause clearly it’s on your agenda to do this with me some other time!”

“Ladies—” Frank began, holding up a beer and a chicken wing, like he’d been caught in a white-trash stickup.

“Shut right up, boyfriend.”

“Hey! That’s enough of your mouth!” Lisa’s cheeks were the color of a tomato, her eyes apologetic to Frank.

Tossing her half-eaten drumstick into the trash, Talon jumped off the counter and flew to her room, slamming the door with a satisfying thud. Don’t I have the right to ask questions? Don’t I have the right to answers? Restless, frustrated, a fly in a jar, she flopped herself into the metal fold-up chair at her desk. The computer droned to life and she stared at the blank essay document where she was supposed to *insert brilliance here. Naturally, she decided that writing her best friend an email to bitch about her mom was a better use of her time, only this is what she saw when she opened her email:

Dear Talon,

You don’t know me. I’m a stranger to you, but that’s my fault. Family can be like that, hiding from each other as a way to hide from ourselves. Stupid, I know. I’m done with that. I want us to know each other.

I call this a “Circle Journal.” The idea is that it circulates between us while we have a long, overdue conversation. I like the idea of that, don’t you?

Your mom and I haven’t spoken for years. I’m sure if she knew about this, she’d try to stop it. But I’m willing to chance it if it means I’ll get to know you after all this time. I can’t believe how much of your life I’ve missed.

If you want to write back, and I hope you do, then here are the rules…THERE ARE NO RULES. You can tell me or ask me anything you want. I promise to do the same. I’m sure we both have so many questions we want answered.

It’s probably best to keep these emails between us. I figure you’re old enough, you can decide for yourself. Just think about it. I’d like to know you before it’s too late.

Sincerely,

Aunt T

Who in Hell’s half-acre was Aunt T? And why was she sending some weird, cryptic email? Talon didn’t get random e-mails from people she didn’t know. She hardly got random emails from people she did know.

Aunt T was right, Talon had never heard of her. Not surprising. Mom liked to keep those little nuggets of information to herself—like who Talon’s real father was or why they seemed to have no family whatsoever—so it didn’t surprise her that her mom never mentioned a sister. She wondered what her mom did to screw up that relationship, too.

The lady said she wanted their communiqué to be private, which stoked Talon’s healthy suspicion. Come to think of it, how did she even know Aunt T was who she said she was? The email could’ve been from anybody. Talon took a deep breath to unclench her stomach.

She didn’t do vulnerable.

As she exhaled, she had to admit, it gave her a rush to think of corresponding with her mom’s sister on the sly. Spilling her secrets to a total stranger was not an option, mostly because she didn’t spill her secrets.

Spill, jab, fling, dangle, or hide. I’m a multi-functional tool.

Mom had secrets, too.

Well, who doesn’t?

If the lady really was her aunt, then maybe she’d reveal something, anything. In Talon’s quest to be as different from her mother as humanly possible, it would help to have some details – the worst potholes were the ones you didn’t see coming.

Suddenly the idea of talking with this Aunt T person seemed pretty appealing.

But first, verification.

Talon’s fingers hovered over the keyboard for a moment before plunging down.

Dear Aunt T,

Pardon my suspicious nature, but I’ve learned over the years to be wary of pretty much everybody. How do I know this isn’t some prank by a punk at school with no life and nothing better to do than to try and infiltrate mine? How do I know you aren’t a nutball stalker with bad intentions? How did you get my email address?

I need some kind of proof.


Talon

author
Tracy Clark is a young-adult writer because she believes teens deserve to know how much they matter and that regardless of what they’re going through, they aren’t alone. In other words, she writes books for her teen self.
 
She grew up a “Valley Girl” in Southern California but now lives in her home state of Nevada, in a small town at the base of the Sierra Foothills. Her two children teach her the art of distraction and are a continuous source of great dialogue.
 
 
Tracy was the recipient of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Work in Progress Grant. A two-time participant in the prestigious Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. Tracy is a private pilot, an irredeemable dreamer, and a spicy-chocolate connoisseur.
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If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Insightful reading, 

Jordan

Review: Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo

up-to-thisGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

She had a plan. It went south.
 
Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.
 
Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart.

review

3.5/5 Stars 

+++Using this for the Antarctica portion of my 2016 YA Reading Challenge 

Up to this Pointe was a different sort of YA contemporary and something that is severely missing in the genre. This is not something I’d typically read. It’s very hard for me to get swept up into contemporary because that are so many overused and abused tropes that they’ve become too predictable (many, not all). So when a realistic YA really hits home, I’m always pleasantly surprised and it takes me a while to gather my thoughts, hence the lateness of this review. 

Up to this Pointe is a story of self actualization and realization that goes beyond the typical coming of age story. The plot explores what happens when your dreams are crushed. What happens when the thing that you place all your hopes and future plans on falls through. And further, when the person that you made these plans with succeeds where you fail. Rejection can be a soul crushing, horrible experience for anyone and Up to this Pointe takes it a step further, when everything you’ve ever desired is taken from you no matter how hard you fight, the years of work you put in, and when your body betrays you.Every shade of emotion wars within Harper. The anger, the jealousy, the hopelessness, the rallying, the determination. It’s beautiful and dark, honest and so raw. She fights her way back to the foundation of who she used to be and comes back as better, with a greater understanding of herself. 

Harper is super focused. Everything in her life is planned, precise, and on a road map to this life that she knows will not be a fantasy but is everything to her. Her determination is remarkable. She’s far from perfect. Her emotions consume her. She gets lost, she crumbles, and she does some questionable things in her grief, but this makes her story so easy to identify with, even if the plot is so out of the park. 

I loved that this WAS NOT a love story in the romantic sense. Yes, there is romance, there is a guy, there’s another guy distraction, etc., but that is NOT the main arc. If anything, the romance was with her passion-ballet and later, the magic of the Antarctic. 

There’s an odd bunch of secondary characters in here who are weird but likable. They each have their flaws and hangups. Occasionally their role in the plot was flighty or their story seemed ramped up for drama. 

The Antarctic ❤ Do you have any idea how hard it is to find YA set in the Antarctic? It’s extremely limited. And one that has so many historical references? I adored the blend of history and science. The imagery is haunting and fantastic. The landscape is to die for. There’s a scene with the baby penguins ❤ ❤ ❤ All the feels!!!

The ending felt rushed and slammed with info. I wasn’t sure if she accomplished what she said or it was dreams that she planned on making happen when she got state side again. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Enchanting reading, 

Jordan