Exclusive Interview with Victoria Scott on Violet Grenade

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Release Date: May 16, 2017

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DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind.

Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

int

YABM: Violet Grenade is a little different than your other books, what inspired this story? 

Victoria: I kept thinking about girls who get attacked, and what it would look like if someone targeted a girl who was capable of killing a man. How glorious that scene would be to watch in a movie. This idea of a small girl with a deadly secret wouldn’t leave my mind until I put her on paper. 

YABM: How would you describe Violet Grenade to a reader in 3 or less sentences? 

Victoria: I’d simply say it’s a story about manipulation, revenge, damaged characters, and love found in unlikely places. Oh, and multiple personalities (Dissociative Identity Disorder).

YABM: What do you want the reader to take away from Violet Grenade?

Victoria: Always, always…entertainment. I never seek to achieve anything besides giving readers an escape from reality. What they find outside of that is unique to their own journey and experiences.

YABM: Give me a brief rundown of Madam Karina’s Home for Burgeoning Entertainers? What is it like?


Victoria: The girls who live there are sorted by silk flowers they wear on their dresses or blouses. It ranks them, and signifies how much of their earnings they actually keep. Those flowers keep the girls competitive. And of course it’s symbolic of losing a certain something. *wink*

YABM: Is there any romance brewing between characters?

Victoria: Oh, yes. Domino and Cain have chemistry, but mostly they share past wounds.

YABM: Which character would be most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse?

Victoria: Cain. Those zombies wouldn’t stand a chance.

YABM: How do you balance home, life, and writing (and your adorable little girl)?

Victoria: With great difficulty! Even as I finish this interview I’m thinking how I didn’t get enough time with my little girl tonight. Le sigh.

YABM: What would you tell aspiring writers? What’s your best advice for completing that draft?

Victoria: To just power through! Trust me, we all think our first drafts stink. If you do too, then you just might be a published author one day. Ha!

authorVictoria Scott Author Photo copyWebsite/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Goodreads

Victoria Scott is the acclaimed author of eight books for young adults. Her most recent release, Titans, received two starred reviews, and Fire & Flood is a 2017 Spirit of Texas Reading Program book. Victoria’s novels are sold in fourteen different countries, and she loves receiving reader emails from across the world. You can find her online at VictoriaScott.com.

Check back closer to release date for my review. 

As always, happy reading!

Jordan

 

ARC Review: Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

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Release Date: Feb 21, 2017

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Mira and Francesca Cillo—beautiful, overprotected, odd—seemed untouchable. But Ben touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira sends Ben on a quest to find notes in the seven places where they touched. Note by note, Ben discovers the mystical secret at the heart of Mira and Francesca’s world, and that some things are better left untouched.

review2/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

+++Potential triggers for: sexual abuse, death/loss, suicide

Beautiful Broken Girls is the kind of book you tilt your head and look at sideways, puzzled and perplexed, trying to figure out what happened and how it evolved into what it did. Unfortunately for me, even when the mystery unraveled, there were so many questions left unanswered that I was at a loss for what to make of this bizarre story.

When I initially saw this cover, I knew I had to have it. It’s creepy and unsettling. It looks like something out of a horror film, so that’s kind of what I expected when I opened the book. This is not that kind of story. At its core, Beautiful Broken Girls is a mystery and an ode to learning to cope after a horrible tragedy, and for Ben, after a lost first love. 

The story is told from multiple characters (Mira, Francesca, and Ben) and takes place in two different years. The pieces are not in order and are further separated by body parts that Ben touched on Mira when they were seeing each other. If it sounds strange, that’s because it is. The idea itself is an interesting one. Getting to each note that Mira left for Ben was like a nostalgic scavenger hunt as he relived the sensual moments he had with Mira as they feel for each other. What the notes meant and getting to the truth propelled the story forward, even when the pacing was excessively slow. 

I made guesses throughout the story about what really happened to the dead girls; I suggest trying this and seeing if you guessed right. I did, to an extent. As the story evolves and the clues are found-in the form of Mira’s cryptic little poem snippets-Ben makes a whirlwind of assumptions. It’s hard to talk about this book without giving anything away and I HATE spoilers. One of the first things you learn about Ben, is that he was molested as a child in little league. So he’s known as touched or damaged. There is so much wrong with this, but I digress. Apart from the fact that this is used as a device by others in the story so that Ben is doubted and seen as projecting his past on the situation, it didn’t really function in the story and threw me off as a story arc. It felt like so many elements of this book were jumbled and thrown in and never really came together to form a coherent narrative. 

One of my major issues was with voice. Ben, the other boys, Mira, basically everyone in the story, despite being set in 2015-2016, felt like they were using language from the 80s or 90s. Maybe even before that. It could be the setting and maybe those phrases are abundant and natural there, but to me, it felt off. Some phrases are crude and made me feel slimy, and other times, it felt like things were thrown in to emphasize that they were teenage boys, whether they were realistic or not. You’re introduced to a lot of characters at once. It took a bit for them to develop into their own people, it was hard to distinguish them at first because of how they were introduced. 

I labeled this with a mental illness tag because of some of the descriptions of Mira and the actions of Francesca (which I can’t really go into without spoilers). But Mira has some disturbing imagery attached to her and her thoughts that make you question her…though somehow nowhere near the way you do Francesca and Mira almost functioned as a secondary character-her voice, her personality, the romance, none of it was emphasized or clear. Mira flitted in and out of the story and there are brief interludes of memory, but other than that, she fades away-ghostly. Back to the point, these thoughts, like wanting to drink toxic chemicals or throw herself off a cliff are dangerous, reckless, borderline suicidal and very disturbing, and yet, they’re just there. Not really deliberated over or anything and it makes you wonder why even put them there other than to show that Mira was messed up too. 

I wasn’t invested in the characters, I was invested in the mystery. The need to know what happened was enough. However, that ending, the truth, the reveal, what about all of the other stuff? Was it real? Was it a psychological issue? So many questions. If you’re looking for something weird, something that when you finish reading you’ll question what you just read, then check this out. 

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

Mysterious reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

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Release Dare: February 7, 2017

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In the vein of It’s Kind of a Funny Story and All the Bright Places, comes a captivating, immersive exploration of life with mental illness.

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?

In A Tragic Kind of Wonderful, Eric Lindstrom, author of the critically acclaimed Not If I See You First, examines the fear that keeps us from exposing our true selves, and the courage it takes to be loved for who we really are.

review3/5 Stars 

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

PROS:

  • There was so much to learn from this book. Mental health isn’t talked about anywhere near as much as it should be. There’s a complex system of animals Mel uses to illustrate her moods/how she’s feeling, which you might want to write down for reference throughout, because it is a little hard and confusing to keep track of. As far as I know (I’m not an expert), this is a poignant and realistic portrayal of the mental and physical highs and lows experienced by someone who is bipolar. It was an awakening for me as a reader, because I haven’t read many books with this mental illness. It brought keen insight into the disorder and how the individual’s thinking and feeling change, how they react, and the medicine cabinet full of medication that some who suffer from this disorder live with everyday. I think a big part of this story was trying to show how normal mental illness can appear to an outsider or someone who doesn’t know. There was a bunch of terminology I had no clue about and I was pretty startled by the idea of subintentional suicide; I’d never heard of that before. Generally when we think of people who make dangerous choices it’s in a oh, what a daredevil kind of way, but this was truly eye-opening for me, and in connection to bipolar disorder. I am still reeling. 
  • I adored HJ (Hurricane Joan). She’s this feisty, sassy aunt, who like Mel, has bipolar disorder. She’s super fun and full of energy, and while she does have her down times, she has such a strong presence. 
  • Mel was an intriguing character. She wasn’t particularly interesting, but she was compassionate, giving, a genuinely good person. Her emotions were a dizzying spiral of highs and lows, ups and downs, and very raw, honest. Her confusion and fear are clear, even if she doesn’t understand why she feels the way she does or how she’s going to react. Mel is trying to cope with her disorder, not beat it or pretend that it doesn’t exist. Mel believes she can be like a “normal” person and that in order to do so, she needs to lie. Why Mel insists on all the lies is revealed in time, but it doesn’t always feel like it was necessary. 
  • Mel and David are cute together. They’re blunt and challenge each other. He is the only one that she is completely truthful with and where she can be the most herself. They’re funny, playful, and have an easy way with each other that feels meant to be.

CONS:

  • A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is split into flashbacks and current events. There are two storylines, one regarding the time before diagnosis and another after. These stories mix and mingle with each other and I wasn’t entirely sold on how it was set up. They way these two narratives were presented made the pacing feel staggered. You feel like you wait forever to things that are alluded to from the very beginning-like why her friendship with Zumi and Conner is on the outs. The whole book you wait for this reveal and it’s built up so much that you expect it to be something world-shattering and terrible, and while it is a betrayal, when you know the reasons why, it’s like, oh, shrug. Other reveals, like what happened to her brother and the mystery about her name, were a little frustrating, but once you understand that they took so long to get to because Mel couldn’t safely, emotionally process them, it’s okay. 
  • All of the characters except for David and Mel and HJ and most of the elderly people-let me fix this, most of the teen characters were antisocial, withdrawn, and even with the flashbacks, didn’t have much personality. The connection between them and Mel was supposedly so strong that it emotionally paralyzes her to think about it, and yet, that feeling does not carry through the book, it’s more talked about than actually illustrated. Most of the story, I questioned why Mel even cared that these people were no longer in her life, she had replacements in the form of Holly and Declan, who were similar enough to the original friends that they were kind of forgettable. Had there been more interaction with ANY of these friends, a stronger establishment between characters would have been made and it would have been easier to become emotionally invested. Again, I think this had a lot to do with how the book was organized. 
  • I wish there had been more flashbacks to Mel and her brother. I felt like the focus was skewed. So much emphasis was placed on the loss of these friends she made after her brother’s death, when his loss is the root of so much of her hurt. 

SIDE NOTE: I would not compare this to All the Bright Places in terms of writing style, but thematically, sure. 

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

Informative reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

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Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.

review

3.5/5 Stars

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

This book. I’m still reeling. What a whirlwind. Norah suffers from a heavy and debilitating combination of agoraphobia and OCD, that effectively makes her housebound. Her mind runs a mile a minute with scenarios that rival 1,000 Ways to Die. Things that the average person would never think of, statistics, all merge into a fatalistic and fearful main character. 

Where do I even begin? The author and the main character share their mental illnesses so the writer is painting her experience vividly and with authority. You can feel it in every thought, every action, the way Norah’s mind expands and she closes in on herself. It’s heartbreaking, terrifying, and absolutely puts you in the character’s shoes. Every fear, every anxiety is magnified and coupled with her OCD quirks that won’t allow her to step outside of her comfort zone and there’s no telling what will set off her spiral into fear and depression. Norah tries hard to control everything to alleviate her fears and when she can’t, she turns to self harm. Those moments are especially poignant. Many times her self-loathing, frustration, and anger with her illness pours off the page. She hates that she can’t be normal. At first Norah is hard to sympathize with because her OCD and agoraphobia is so pronounced. As someone who doesn’t suffer from these illnesses, you’ll think, why can’t she just get over? What’s the big deal? You might even get a little annoyed. But as the story progresses, you get it. 100%. You understand that Norah has no choice, that she struggles and fights and her mind overwhelms her. And it’s gut-wrenching what she goes through, how every little action consumes her and forces her to act a certain way despite what her heart years for. I mean, wow. 

The story is basically Norah opening herself up to new experiences, facing her insecurities through baby steps, and learning to hope for a future where she won’t be limited, where she will have the freedom to embrace her dreams of travel and dating like a “normal” girl. Under Rose-Tainted Skies straddles a fine line and where I think it might face some critique fire is in terms of romanticizing mental illness. Many times, a guy or girl will come in and suddenly they’re the miraculous cure, and IMO if love can help, I’m all for it, but lately readers have objected to that sort of cure-all at the site of a hot guy. Luke, to me, is a spark that ignites her, he lights her up and makes her dream again-he’s a catalyst not a savior. Norah still makes choices, heck yes she has a huge crush because the guy is smoking hot, awkward, and so understanding, but he by no means swoops in and saves her, she fights and makes choices and slowly copes-she’s not cured because that’s totally unrealistic. This is a real, gritty picture of mental illness and how it wreaks havoc on every aspect of the individual’s life. 

What I felt the story was missing was more encounters with Norah’s mother, and her therapist. They both are strong women that have a huge presence in Norah’s life and while you get that impression and there are short scenes, I would have loved to see more of the cute interactions with Norah and her mom, and maybe a bit more on what Norah was like before her accident. 

The pacing was so-so, but fit for contemporary. There’s definitely a build up in feelings, curiosity, and yearning. The twist near the end was unexpected, but worked well. 

Luke and Norah together are made of awkward and silly and smiles and sometimes walking on eggshells, but it’s worth it just to see Norah overcome and work through her illness. They’re so cute together and so weird. Totally endearing and it’s really refreshing that all the instalust and love that have been permeating YA lately is not present. 

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

Insightful reading,

Jordan

Cover Reveal: The Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

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DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind.

Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

Fierce reading,

Jordan

(Proud member of the #VMafia)

Review: Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin

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Three sisters struggle with the bonds that hold their family together as they face a darkness settling over their lives in this masterfully written debut novel.

There are three beautiful blond Babcock sisters: gorgeous and foul-mouthed Adrienne, observant and shy Vanessa, and the youngest and best-loved, Marie. Their mother is ill with leukemia and the girls spend a lot of time with her at a Mexican clinic across the border from their San Diego home so she can receive alternative treatments.

Vanessa is the middle child, a talented pianist who is trying to hold her family together despite the painful loss that they all know is inevitable. As she and her sisters navigate first loves and college dreams, they are completely unaware that an illness far more insidious than cancer poisons their home. Their world is about to shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal…

review

3/5 Stars

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re looking for a coming of age drama with a twist you won’t see coming
  • You like books that are NOT romance driven
  • Sisterhood is everything

Tell Me Something Real is unexpected and eye-opening. At first, it reads like your typical coming of age drama and then, the truth. It took a good 10 minutes for me to process and as the story continued to unravel, the severity of the “real” had a subtle punch that built into a nightmare. The damage that can come from a single choice made by someone you love can be life long and brutal. The aftershock is hard to escape. 

Tell Me Something Real is set in the 1970s. Sometimes it feels that way and others it feels more like contemporary day-to-day life. The setting was inconsistent. While there were a handful of historical references and music preferences, it didn’t feel like a big deal. I wasn’t transported or invested in the time period. Perhaps the time choice was for the particular type of experimental cancer drug, but it wasn’t explained. 

Sisterhood is everything in this story. Each Babcock girl is so different, but their bond is undeniable and transcendent. They love each other. It’s in everything they do. The way they tease each other, they way they comfort and ease each other’s fears. They’re going through something horrific, extremely traumatic and life-altering. It’s a slow and hallow experience, that helplessness that overwhelms when you watch a loved one succumb to their sickness. There’s nothing you can do but wait. That feeling, the raw and painful truth of it is well written and on point. It’s not in your face emotional. It captures the little, everyday things that change when something like this happens. The way people start to push you away, look at you differently, the excessive sympathy, the way people step aside because they don’t know how to react and how much that hurts. Your life becomes about the sickness and the care. Everything else loses its sway and you’d give anything to feel normal again. As someone who recently lost a family member to cancer, this was cathartic and therapeutic for me-I felt like someone understood and that mutual understanding is everything.

The story is broken into 3 sections, that are like 3 phases of processing and coming to terms with what happened. The first section of the book is slow. It drags quite a bit and I had to push through. Yes, I sympathized with the characters, it’s hard not to, but there wasn’t anything really exciting going on.

 Adrienne was a loud presence in the background but didn’t have a huge function in the story. Later in the book she becomes more present, but for the most part, she shouts some obscenities, insults people, lashes out, and does her own thing. I didn’t really like her much. Some of the things she off-handedly says rubbed me the wrong way. 

The romance is there. It doesn’t feel like instalove or a build up, it suddenly exists and somehow feels like it has always been there. There’s not fire or lust really, just shared understanding and seeing into each other’s deepest fears and desires and accepting them without question. 

The twist is sickening and shocking. The lengths, the lies, the pain that comes from something like this that can go one for ages before anyone notices…wow. 

What killed me, broke my heart into pieces and set them on fire, was little Marie. Her way of dealing with her mother’s sickness is to become obsessed with religious martyrs. It becomes her truth, her way of life, their prayers and actions are in everything she does and it makes her life hard. None of her peers understand her and despite having her sisters, she’s so alone. To think that she believes she could have changed things, it breaks me up inside. 

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

Emotional reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Forget Me Always by Sara Wolf

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All warfare is deception. Even in high school.

It’s been nineteen days since Isis Blake forgot about him. The boy she can’t quite remember. She’s stuck in the hospital with a turban-size bandage on her head, more Jell-o than a human being should ever face, and a tiny bit of localized amnesia. Her only goal? To get out of this place before she becomes a complete nutjob herself.

But as Isis’s memories start to return, she realizes there’s something important there at the edges of her mind. Something that may mean the difference between life and death. Something about Sophia, Jack’s girlfriend.

Jack Hunter—the “Ice Prince”—remembers everything. Remembers Isis’s purple hair and her smart-ass mouth. Remembers that for a little while, Isis made him feel human. She made him feel. She burned a hole in the ice…and it’s time to freeze back up. Boys like him don’t deserve girls like her. Because Jack is dangerous. And that danger might be the only thing protecting her from something far more threatening.

Her past.

Previously published as Savage Delight, this fully revised and updated edition is full of hilarity, drama, and heartbreak.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Entangled and NetGalley

Forget Me Always is a weird little book. Let me preface this review by saying that I did not read book 1 in this series. I went in blind. I had no knowledge whatsoever of the craziness that happened in book 1, so to me this probably read like more of a mystery than it actually was.

I don’t think I’ve ever read more unlikable characters. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. You probably should dislike them. Not everyone is perfect. Sometimes people are broken and in pain and don’t know how to cope. That’s a truth that is evident in this book.They’re a messy bunch of angst-riddled, spastic people harboring wounds so deep and tragic that it’s jarring even reading them. Jack is a masochistic jerk. He’s hurtful, lashes out, lives on sarcasm and self-loathing. His darkness is internalized until it becomes a physically painful truth to whoever he’s projecting his pain on. He’s twisted, complex, and has so much on his shoulders but his personality is just so negative that you kind of hate him. And yet…he’s like a brooding, tragic hero that you want to see through to the end-to see if he self destructs or comes to terms with his demons.

Isis seems way, way younger than her age. She evades and forces happiness to shield herself from past trauma-but because of that doesn’t really experience strong character growth. Some readers might appreciate her unique brand of quirky, she definitely has a strong voice, but for me it was too potent. At the same time, she certainly makes things interesting and her spirit rubs off on people, making them open up and care again. She’s devoted, a great friend.

Sophia is a nightmare, but I liked her. She vicious and cruel and borderline evil half the time, but the other times she’s bizarre and wounded, and dare I say sweet. She’s that character that you love to hate. 

There’s so much going on this book. Things coming from all directions. There was a lot left unresolved; the ending was bleak and twisted. 

The story has many components that are so relevant to teen life-sex, drugs, depression, abuse, making unsavory choices to provide for those you love, bullying, manipulation. Borderline Pretty Little Liars scale crazy with coercion, lies, and so many secrets.

Intriguing reading, 

Jordan