ARC Review & Giveaway: Breaking by Danielle Rollins

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Companion novel to Burning.

Prep school gets a twist of supernatural suspense in this commercial YA thriller.

Charlotte has always been content in the shadow of her two best friends at the prestigious Underhill Preparatory Institute. Ariel is daring and mysterious. Devon is beautiful and brilliant. Although Charlotte never lived up to the standards of the school—or her demanding mother—her two best friends became the family she never had. When Ariel and Devon suddenly commit suicide within a month of each other, Charlotte refuses to accept it as a coincidence. But as the clues point to a dangerous secret about Underhill Prep, Charlotte is suddenly in over her head. There’s a reason the students of Underhill are so exceptional, and the people responsible are willing to kill to protect the truth…

Suspenseful and scintillating, with hints of the supernatural, this fast-paced thriller will keep readers hooked.

review

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

***Triggers violence and suicide. Animal cruelty.

HERE’S WHAT I LOVED:

  • The dark and gritty, almost fairy tale-like quality of Ariel, Devon, and Charlotte. It almost read like magical realism with a sci-fi twist. I adored the dreamy, twisted idea of them being archetypes of fairy tale princesses whose mothers either abandoned or neglected them and all they had was a sisterhood. Yes, that. Yes. 
  • The characters are imperfect. In fact, they aren’t even really likable for the most part. The more Charlotte reminisces about Devon and Ariel, the more cruel and sadistic they seem. Some scenes are truly horrific and disturbing. Like if you love animals…one scene will give you some serious anxiety. I held my breath through that one. The anticipation and fear are too real. Charlotte is one of those characters that you sort of sympathize with, though she does have quite a bit of self-pity. She thinks she’s less attractive, less intelligent, etc., than everyone at her school. There is a total of one scene that shows where that insecurity comes from-the pretty much abusive mind games her mother forced her to play as a child. I wasn’t entirely sold on her character. She was okay. As the story progressed, she did get better. She became rebellious, angry, and a little vicious. Not everything was so black and white. 
  • Mystery definitely propels the plot forward. What at first seems like a string of suicides becomes suspect. What made two girls who were relatively happy and popular kill themselves? There are all sorts of clues and weird incidents that make you question everything. 
  • The ending. Violent, vengeance-fueled, incendiary 😉 it’s sort of evil, but also justified. It was deeply satisfied with the ending. 

HERE’S WHAT I DISLIKED: 

  • The romance. There is so much build up that makes you think it’s something it’s totally not. Something more. Maybe Charlotte is blinded. Whatever. But the reader can see. There’s chemistry sure. And lust, definitely. But anything else, I wasn’t getting any strong emotions, even before the numbness started to set in. 
  • I read Burning. There were several references to things that happened in this book that it kept throwing me off and I flipping through my memory trying to remember anything that might be relevant to the story. There is SO little about what happened in Burning and as a companion where the events that happened in the first book directly influence major plot points, I felt like there should have been more than a few measly clues. 
  • The pacing was a little slow for me. It did pick up but way, way towards the end. Then it’s just crazy action and violence and all sorts of chaos. 

authorDanielle (1)

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Author of the best-selling MERCILESS series, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, BURNING, and BREAKING. I’m currently working on the last installment of the Merciless books, & starting a new series to be announced later this year.

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Enter for your chance to win a finished copy of Breaking. US ONLY.

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Read more, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

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Release Date: June 27, 2017

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“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.

review

3/5 Stars 

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

+++Triggers for abortion, suicide, death

This is the first YA book I’ve read that has dealt with the sensitive and extremely relevant topics of teenage pregnancy and choosing abortion. We definitely need more of these heavy-hitting subjects because despite the tendency for society to pretend sex doesn’t happen in high school, it does and a lot. Kids make mistakes, especially when it comes to mixing alcohol and unprotected sex (which is not even the case in this story, the condom actually breaks). This is 100% a story that needed to be written, explored, and experienced. Okay, let me get off of my soapbox about this and talk about the book.

The story centers around a girl who is very much in love with her boyfriend, they have sex, and unfortunately the condom breaks and she ends up pregnant. He comes from a very traditional, upper class, church-going family, and has been raised to believe abortion is the highest form of sin, much worse than the pre-martial sex he indulged in. Gen comes from a broken family. Her father OD’d, her mother is dangerously depressed, and she is left to pick up the pieces after their tragic loss. Their home situations are vastly different and yet, he adores her quirkiness and her big heart. He is compassionate and understands her home life is less than ideal and he’s there for her when some truly devastating and horrific stuff happens. So what’s the problem?

This dynamic is not explored. I loved that they came from families that are basically opposites. That despite everything working against them socially, they inherently understood each other. And yet, the story structure…doesn’t work well with the plot. It’s a series of flashbacks to how they fell in love and the current heartbroken times post-abortion. It’s nostalgic and dreamy and rose-tinted, despite the hospital visits and everything else. The very problematic issue of Peter’s personal, religious beliefs are pretty much glossed over and the catty former friend who wants to sink her claws into Peter is front and center. Why? I don’t understand. Maybe the author wanted to take another route or didn’t want to get too political or preachy or something? I’m not sure. But these extremely important details were not talked about except in minor passing and at the end. I feel like the drama was displaced. I would have liked a little more exploration of these conflicts and it’s just lots of reflection.

The abortion scene itself. There are no words. The emotions, the confusion, the heartbreak, there’s also a weird need to “punish” herself and so that she feels the loss. It’s powerful and hits hard. And what’s worse, what really, truly broke my heart was the betrayal. You need someone to hold your hand. To be there. And for someone to desert you during such a critical time. How can you ever forgive that? 

The plot is all over the place. It’s sporadic and random and then add in the flashback scenes and it felt like the story didn’t know what it wanted to be. I totally understand being confusion, reckless, and the emotional chaos that can cause someone to make bizarre choices but I guess the pieces didn’t fit well together. This book deals with so many heavy themes and it felt…lighter than expected? I mean abortion, drug overdosing, suicide…it’s as hard as it gets. 

However, the story was enjoyable. I liked the weird romance that sprung up out of Gen’s heartbreak. It was uplifting and adorable, and he definitely brightens her life. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

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Everyone who really knows Brooklyn knows Devonairre Street girls are different. They’re the ones you shouldn’t fall in love with. The ones with the curse. The ones who can get you killed.

Lorna Ryder is a Devonairre Street girl, and for years, paying lip service to the curse has been the small price of living in a neighborhood full of memories of her father, one of the thousands killed five years earlier in the 2001 Times Square Bombing. Then her best friend’s boyfriend is killed, and suddenly a city paralyzed by dread of another terrorist attack is obsessed with Devonairre Street and the price of falling in love.

Set in an America where recent history has followed a different path.

review3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via FirstToRead & Penguin Teen

+++This book does contain mature situations that may not be appropriate for younger teens

PROS:

  • Some parts are gloriously awkward in the way that only first love can be. Others are a question, a struggle to define, and a learning process of how to understand and share intimacy in the many ways it presents itself. There are all aspects of love in this book and often it evolves, transforms, and rebuilds after loss, tragedy, and heartache. Sometimes the love you thought you wanted is nothing like you imagined. Sometimes love has a time and place and no matter how hard you fight for it, it’s a losing battle. Cringe-worthy, provocative, and eye-opening. 
  • Sex positivity. Girls that are comfortable with their bodies, their passion, and willingness to express themselves sexually. Sure, there’s judgment from others but this expression of love is seen as natural and necessary.
  • There are a number of beautifully lyrical and blunt truths that feel like revelation. Perceptions on love and what it means to be in love, to be loved, and to give love shift within the story and as the main character goes through each phase, we experience it right along with her. The confusion, the hurt, the yearning is all there in full force. This is also an ode to loss and the many ways we deal with the empty after. 
  • The premise itself is interesting, though I would hesitate to call it magical realism like many other readers and reviewers have. There’s enough belief in the curse to influence every aspect of the people’s lives who live on this street. That strength in belief is its own form of magic and carries incredible power. It’s quirky, it’s weird, and a little unsettling. The lemons, the windows being left open, it was all fairly ritualistic and earthy. In my Goodreads status updates I tried to encompass the feeling of this book through comparatives: 
    February 17, 2017 – page 75

     

    26.04% “Still undecided. It kind of reminds me of The Graces meets Tell Me Something Real and then there’s little Practical Magic meets The Sun Also Rises. If you think that sounds interesting, check it out. Still not sold though.”

     
    February 17, 2017 – page 25

     

    8.68% “So far I don’t know how to feel about this book. It feel like it’s set in the 70s or 80s, it’s super literary, and thoughtful. While there are things in here that suggest alternate history and local mythology, I’m not sure I want to read more.”

CONS:

  • The pacing. For a story so interesting and poignant, it’s one of the slowest I’ve ever read. And insanely short. For so much story it felt unfinished. It lacked development that could have made the ideas and atmosphere stronger.
  • I didn’t really care for any of the characters. While there were unique and I appreciated what they were going through, I struggled to leave my post of indifference. I pushed my way through the story hoping to feel for the characters, but my heart was with the words, the ideas, not the individuals living it. 
  • The ending. So much happens in those last few pages and it’s certainly jarring but left things feeling unresolved and random. It didn’t add up. It felt rushed, incomplete, and did not fit with the rest of the book. 

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

Read on, 

Jordan

 

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Lessons In Falling by Diana Gallagher

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When Savannah Gregory blows out her knee – and her shot at a gymnastics scholarship – she decides she’s done with the sport forever. Without gymnastics, she has more time for her best friend, Cassie. She’s content to let her fun, impulsive best friend plan a memorable senior year. 

 

That is, until Cassie tries to kill herself.

 

Savannah wants to understand what happened, but Cassie refuses to talk about it and for the first time, Savannah has to find her own way. The only person she can turn to is Marcos, the boy who saved Cassie’s life. Being with him makes her see who she could be and what she really wants: gymnastics. 

 

But Cassie doesn’t approve of Marcos or of Savannah going back to gymnastics, and the tighter she tries to hold on to Savannah, the farther it pulls them apart. Without Cassie to call the shots, Savannah discovers how capable she is on her own – and that maybe her best friend’s been holding her back all along.
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author

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Though Diana Gallagher be but little, she is fierce. She’s also a gymnastics coach and judge, former collegiate gymnast, and writing professor. Her work has appeared in The Southampton Review, International Gymnast, The Couch Gymnast, and on a candy cigarette box for SmokeLong Quarterly. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and is represented by Tina Wexler of ICM Partners. Her contemporary YA novel, Lessons in Falling, lands on 2/7/2017.

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(1) Winner will receive an annotated copy of Lessons in Falling by Diana Gallagher (US only) Follow these rules to enter!
 

“Want to share your own Lessons Learned?? It’s easy! Tell us about a time in your life when you persevered, despite a bad situation, and what lessons you learned from that situation. Share it however you like – on your blog, your social media, wherever! Submit your link to the Rafflecopter during the blitz and share the giveaway with your friends to win an annotated ARC!

Ends on February 28th at Midnight EST!

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Insightful 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

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Homecoming by Stacie Ramey

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Praise for The Homecoming

“The overall message of relying on family and friends for support is clear, and John’s pain and confusion are palpable… the male point of view distinguishes it in a field crowded with girls’ perspectives. VERDICT A solid addition to YA collections.”

School Library Journal

“This engaging story will appeal to all readers and will help troubled teens realize that there can be help out there for what’s going on in their lives.”

School Library Connection

“A stirring close-up of a family haunted by emotional trauma.”

Kirkus

Forced to return to his estranged family, John discovers how hard it is to truly go home.

It’s been a year since John lost his girlfriend, Leah, to suicide. Living with his uncle keeps his mind from the tragedy and his screwed up family—until he gets into trouble and a judge sends him back home. With a neglectful mother and abusive brother, John’s homecoming is far from happy.

As he tries to navigate and repair the relationships he abandoned years ago, Emily, the girl next door, is the only bright spot. She’s sweet and smart and makes him think his heart may finally be healing. But tragedy isn’t far away, and John must soon face an impossible decision: save his family or save himself.

ExcerptTHE HOMECOMING

STACIE RAMEY

Chapter 1

Standing on the high school’s lacrosse field in the town I never thought I’d go back to, I wait for my turn to do suicides. The sun blazes, and I take a drink from my water bottle and try not to chew myself out for landing here instead of getting to stay in Chicago with Uncle Dave. What would Leah think if she saw me now?

“Strickland!” Coach calls. “Line up.”

It’s not my turn to run again, and the unfairness starts a flame in my stomach, but I line up anyway. No way I’m gonna let Coach see he’s getting to me. Or let the team know how out of shape I really am.

“Get your legs up!” Coach Gibson screams, and I think he’s talking to me, but I can’t be sure, because six of us are racing, and I’m losing. Bad. Guess the last few years of smoking weed hasn’t helped my stamina.

Matt, a guy from my neighborhood who I used to play lacrosse with and one of two people Mom fought like hell to keep me away from, yells from the sidelines, “Wheels, Strickland, wheels.” But he laughs as he says it, and I know he’s just giving me shit.

I knew they’d go hard on me. Payback for moving away. For not playing lacrosse since fifth grade. For hanging with the druggies instead of the jocks. I’m one of the new guys on the team. An honor not usually given to seniors. So I’m treated to Hell Week like the freshmen and sophomores. I don’t mind. That’s just the way it is.

Coach Gibson points to me. “Just Strickland this time.”

Bodies collapse around me, and I hear their sighs of relief as I crouch in the ready position, sweat pouring off my chest and arms and legs while I wait for Coach’s whistle to launch me like a bullet from a gun. I run from the end line to goal line. Goal line to end line. End line to box line. Box line to half field.

“Push, push, push,” Coach yells.

I do what he says, push my body. Pump my legs. It sucks, but I do it, because with each stride, I feel my body taking over and my mind being left far behind. Maybe this time, Dad was right. Lacrosse is just what I need.

“Again.” Coach points to me. He clicks his stopwatch, and I race again. He shakes his head as he documents my time. Like I don’t know how bad I suck. Like I don’t get how much persuading Dad must have had to do to get me on the team. Thinking of Dad fires me up to tap into my beast. I bend over. Try not to puke. Take a drink of my water and hit the line to run again.

I don’t actually mind this part. Whenever I run full out, push my body past its limit, those are the times I’m not thinking of Leah.

“Again.” I run my route one more time, my body failing a little more with each step. When I’m sure I’m going to fall to the ground, I make myself think of Leah. How I was supposed to save her. How I didn’t. And that’s enough to propel me forward. At the end of the run, I bend over, spit on the ground.

The other seniors and juniors start their Indian drill. They jog by us freshies, run their rhythmic jogging and even breathing, reminding me that they are warriors, and I am not. Matt yells out, “Damn, Strickland.” Then laughs as I lose this battle and puke on the ground.

Brandon, another guy from the old team, joins in the hilarity. “We got a puker!”

I look at each exercise as a brick in some mythical wall I have to build before I can earn my walking papers. That makes it easier to face. One step. One drill. One minute. One hour. One week. One month. More than one year since my girlfriend Leah died. (Killed herself, I remind myself, careful to make the memory hurt as much as possible).

Probably thirty minutes left in practice. Nine weeks till my first report card. Nine months of probation, ten months till I can graduate and move on with my life to California. The farthest place from my family I can go without getting a passport. Where I can cash in on my one and only talent: growing and selling weed. Legally there.

Finally, Coach calls us in. The juniors and seniors have already been sent to the locker room ahead of us, so he’s only addressing us wannabes. “You guys didn’t totally disappoint me today, so tomorrow, you can bring your sticks.”

Some of the guys pump their fists. I don’t even have the energy to do that.

“Now hit the showers and head home.”

I’m turning to leave when Coach calls me over. “Hey, John, I wanted to say I’m sorry about your brother. And your girl.”

The dragon roars. Flames engulf me. People just can’t let an accident like Ryan’s go, even after all these years. But Leah? That’s too much. They didn’t even know her. I don’t want to share her tragedy, her life, her memory with anyone.

“You’ve had some tough breaks for sure.”

Dad and his stupid mouth.

Coach shifts his stance, crosses his arms—his clipboard with all my times now clutched to his chest. Numbers that for sure say I’m not good enough to be on any lacrosse team—definitely not the varsity team at East Coast High. “I don’t want you to get discouraged. Coach Stallworth told me about you. Said you used to be a hell of an athlete. You can be again, I’m sure.”

His stare feels like he’s trying to figure out what I’m made of. I want to tell him not to waste his time. I’m happy to tell him exactly who I am. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t mind taking whatever physical punishment he wants to dish out. But when it comes to my emotions? Coach is going to have to understand that that shit’s off-limits. Emotions are for idiots. Feeling crap doesn’t change what happened. Good weed works so much better. Hell, even bad weed beats feeling any day.

I gulp more water. Spit on the ground. Look him square in the eye. “Thanks, Coach. That all?”

I guess Coach picks up on my noncommunicative status, because his eyes go back to his clipboard. “See you tomorrow.”

I give him a nod and jog to the locker room so Coach’ll see I’ve still got a little juice in me, even after everything.

***

Last one in the locker room also means last one out. I sit on the bench, lean over to close my locker as Matt and Brandon head for the parking lot.

“Later,” Matt throws over his shoulder, the er reverberating as the door shuts behind him.

Matt and I’ve got some history to get over. It was his big brother, Pete, who hit Ryan. Seven years later and that still hangs between us. Not that it was Pete’s fault exactly. When it comes to those things, fault hardly even matters. It’s called an accident for a reason.

Besides, Pete hasn’t exactly gotten off scot-free either. Some people might think becoming a high school dropout, working pizza delivery while feeding a major drug and drinking problem is not as bad as Ryan’s deal, but I say that nobody has a right to judge. I stayed in touch with Pete even after I moved away. Nobody understands that, but it was like he was the only one who got the nuclear fallout of that accident.

I’m stuffing my sweaty clothes into my bag and zipping it up when I hear my cell chirp. I grab it, hoping it’s one of Pete’s connections I reached out to today. Someone who can help me with my little sobriety problem.

But it’s not Pete’s connection. It’s Uncle Dave. Hey, just checking in. Hope you’re settling in OK.

I text back. Yeah. Fine.

How was practice?

Somehow, that kills me. That he’s still checking on me. Uncle Dave. Not Dad or Mom. Him. This warm spot inside me lights a little every time he calls or texts.

He texts again. When someone you love dies, it changes you. Remember that.

He means Leah for me. My perfect big brother for Mom.

After Ryan’s accident, Mom didn’t change so much as reduce, like the sauce that Uncle Dave made for my filet the last night I was living with him. He explained how a little fire under you can intensify whatever’s inside you. After the accident, Mom got more intense for sure. Driven. Focused only on Ryan. With me, I just got more angry. Just the way I am, I guess.

Uncle Dave always tries to turn simple moments into lessons. Not preachy ones, just different ways to look at life. His texts aren’t meant to pry or annoy, but I can’t help wishing he hadn’t. I screwed up the best living arrangement of my life, the one Dad said I needed after I told him about Leah. But I killed the whole deal by hanging with a bunch of thugs and acting like a punk.

There’s a mass of activity around me in the locker room that doesn’t include me. Kids banging fists. Giving each other shit. Nodding when the others ask if they’ve got a ride. Then it hits me: I’m completely ride-less.

The guys on the team have picked up on my not so subtle I want to be left alone signal. I know teammates are supposed to male bond or some shit like that, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to finish probation. Live according to Mom’s rules. Then get out and go away. And never come back.

I text Uncle Dave. I’m exactly the same jerk I used to be.

He texts. Nice try.

As the door bangs shut for the last time, I realize my being a selfish ass and ignoring everyone means I’ll have to walk home. Great work, Johnny. I almost laugh out loud at what an idiot I can be.

The phone chirps again. This time it’s Dad. Picked up your Jeep from the compound. Cost me a fortune. Show me you’ve earned it and I’ll bring it to you.

Always pushing. Uncle Dave is so much cooler than Dad is that it’s hard to believe they’re even brothers.

The door opens, and a janitor leans in. “You done?”

“Yeah. Sorry.” I look around the locker room one more time. I am completely alone, even on a team of thirty kids. Classic me.

authorstacie-ramey_headshotWebsite/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/Tumblr

Stacie Ramey attended the University of Florida where she majored in communication sciences and Penn State where she received a Master of Science degree in speech pathology. She lives in Wellington, Florida, with her husband, three children, and two rescue dogs. Visitwww.stacieramey.com.

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Dramatic reading, 

Jordan

Lost Review: Paint My Body Red by Heidi R. Kling

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synThe world isn’t just black or white. Sometimes it’s red…

They think I’m next. That I’ll be the seventh kid to step in front of a train and end my life. With the rash of suicides at my school, Mom’s shipped me off to my dad’s Wyoming ranch for “my own safety.” They think I’m just another depressed teenager whose blood will end up on the tracks. They don’t know my secrets…or what I’ve done.

I wasn’t expecting Dad to be so sick, for the ranch I loved to be falling to bits, or for Jake—the cute boy I knew years ago—to have grown into a full-fledged, hot-as-hell cowboy. Suddenly, I don’t want to run anymore, but the secrets from home have found me…even here. And this time, it’s up to me to face them—and myself—if I want to live…

review

3/5 Stars 

***I received this book way back when as a gift in exchange for an honest review

+++Triggers: Mature YA, adult situations, suicide, assault 

Paint My Body Red feels like two separate novels that don’t mesh as seamlessly as they should. While the characters are the same, it’s like an alternate universe that the main character has been carelessly thrown into. As individual books, I might have rated this higher. Each story is interesting and full of atmospheric details. 

The premise is genius and based on fact. A suicide trend that caused city-wide hysteria, paranoia, and fear is a very real threat that could happen anywhere. The amount of pressure, stress, and lack of place for mental health care in schools is a major issue that needs to be talked about more. 

Words have power. What you say to someone can change their whole life, especially if they’re already overwhelmed and doubting their desire to live. This is a strong theme and extremely powerful. The main character goes through a self-destructive period of doubt, self-hatred, and anxiety after she says something that may have pushed another student over the edge. Not only can negative words be harmful to the receiver, but to the person who says them. 

Sometimes bad choices can overwhelm us and make us feel disgusted, worthless, and unworthy. The feelings are profound and sharp. You feel every stabbing ounce of pain as Paige recounts her past in her diary. It’s real, brutal, and consuming.

The sort of Southern romance going on threw me off. Yes, Paige is complex and comes from two worlds. Ranch time is supposed to be a safe place, therapy for her. Throw in the rodeo and flirty cowboys, it becomes something else entirely. The romance is subtle at first, flirty fun that becomes more. Paige’s feelings are complicated and plagued with doubt. Her confidence has vanished after everything she has been through, but it’s through love that she regains that former shine. 

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

Dramatic reading, 

Jordan