Surviving High School by Lele Pons | Review

<strong>Surviving High School</strong> Book Cover
Surviving High School Young Adult, Romance Gallery Books Hardcover 272 pages Amazon

Ten million followers and I still sit alone at lunch. Lele is a bulls-eye target at her new school in Miami until, overnight, her digital fame catapults the girl with cheerleader looks, a seriously silly personality, and a self-deprecating funny bone into the popular crowd. Now she’s facing a whole new set of challenges—the relentless drama, the ruthless cliques, the unexpected internet celebrity—all while trying to keep her grades up and make her parents proud.

Filled with the zany enthusiasm that has made Lele into Vine’s most viewed star, this charming novel is proof that high school is a trip. From crushing your crushes (what’s up with that hot transfer student Alexei??) to throwing Insta-fake parties with your BFFs and moaning over homework (GAH) with your frenemies, high school is a rollercoaster of exhilarating highs and totally embarrassing lows. Leave it to Lele to reassure us that falling flat on your face is definitely not the end of the world. Fans of Mean Girls will love this fun and heartwarming fish-out-of-water story.

 

Review

I’m not a Vine follower, so coming into this, I had no idea who Lele Pons was. Surviving High School is described as a fictional autobiography of Pons’ own experience. This is a story of “fictional” Lele Pons and how she copes with starting at a new high school

Lele is a very quirky and witty character. I think a lot of what happens in this novel can translate to teens/adults all over. High school can be a challenge and I think that was covered nicely. The characters seemed to flow and interact well with each other.

It can be a bit confusing knowing that some of the events are real and some are fake. I almost wish, Pons had just written an autobiography. I found myself wanting to know what was true and I’m sure her own life is equally fascinating that a nonfiction book would be well-read.

Overall, a good, cute, and funny book.


I received a complimentary electronic copy of this novel from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for a honest review.

Fate Ball by Adam W. Jones | Review

Fate Ball Book Cover
Fate Ball Romance Hardcover 298 pages Amazon

Able Curran had no idea that a chance meeting at a local fraternity party would change his life . . . but it did.  Meeting Ava Gardner Dubose was the best thing to ever happen in his young life . . . and the worst.  He discovered a depth of love that he never knew existed.  And, a love that would forever tie him to Ava even through her darkest days of alcohol and drug addiction.

Fate Ball is a story about a first love that lived on long after the relationship ended.  A love that would forever link the lives of Able and Ava, whether they lived thousands of miles away from each other or just

across town.  Fate Ball bounced into Able’s life in the form of a beautiful blonde with a wild side.  What began as the perfect young man fantasy turned into a quest to save a first love from herself and the demons that ruled her from within.

 

Review

Able and Ava met randomly at a party. It seemed to be a perfect match; they were meant for each other. As time passes, their relationship succeeds and struggles, torn by addiction. Able’s love for Ava is strong, but is it enough to save her from herself?

This is quite a heartbreaking love story. Addiction is a terrible thing. I haven’t personally had a relationship with someone who had an addiction, but Jones’ novel paints a clear picture. Ava’s destructive behavior affects everyone in her life and their love for her keeps them tethered.

I really loved the evolution of this novel. The events span over 14 years. Jones begins with the present and then provides flashbacks to moments in the past. Able and Ava had a beautiful and cute start to their relationship. Their opposite personalities fit well together and they were what the other needed. Even when they were no longer together, fate continued to bring them to the same place. By the end of the novel, everything felt full circle.

Jones writes from both Able’s and Ava’s perspective. This really helped give an aspect of reality to the story. Every person experiences life differently and I appreciated that we were able to glimpse life through both these character’s eyes.

Fate Ball was a very powerful read. The novel moved along at a steady pace and each moment added to the story. This isn’t a “happily ever after” book, but sometimes we need a story that isn’t fantastical. Beautifully written, full of emotion, Jones should be proud of the work he created.


I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum | Review

<strong>Tell Me Three Things</strong> Book Cover
Tell Me Three Things Young Adult, Romance Delacorte Press Paperback 352 pages Amazon

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son, and to start at a new school where she knows no one.

Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Review

I think I just found my new favorite book! I loved this book. I loved it so much, I read it in one day. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.

Jessie is starting her junior year of high school at a new school, in a new city, in a different state, in a new home, with a new step-family. It wasn’t exactly a smooth transition. Just when all is lost, Jessie receives an anonymous email for Somebody/Nobody (SN). SN says they want to help Jessie transition into her new school and life. Can Jessie trust SN or is a cruel joke?

There is a lot going on with this story. Tell Me Three Things follows Jessie as she finds her place in new surroundings. This is a story about friendship and family with a romantic comedy element thrown in.

Jessie is a complex character with real issues and feelings that many readers can relate to. She lost her mom, has to adjust to a new family, and deal with leaving her old life and best friend behind as she moves across the country. As someone who moved to a new state in middle school, I definitely related to Jessie’s struggle and hopelessness.

I love all the characters in the book. Buxbaum has done a beautiful job at giving all her characters substance. Even supporting characters are rounded and given enough detail to make them real. Many characters have moments of growth, which just adds a more realistic aspect to the novel.

This book is sad at times, laugh out loud funny, thoughtful, and sweet. Beyond dealing with her family life, Jessie also experiences her first crush. While watching Jessie engage in the trials of high school romance, I couldn’t help but think of my own awkward experiences.

I could probably talk about this novel until I turn blue. I don’t want to give anything away so I’m going to end by recommending you pick up this novel. It is a beautiful and humorous story. You won’t be disappointed.


I received a complimentary ARC of this novel through First In Line.

 

 

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor | Review

<strong>Into the Dim</strong> Book Cover
Into the Dim Into the Dim (Book 1) Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy HMH Books for Young Readers Hardcover 432 pages Amazon

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. And she’s alive, though currently trapped in the twelfth century, during the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Passing through the Dim, Hope enters a brutal medieval world of political intrigue, danger, and violence. A place where any serious interference could alter the very course of history. And when she meets a boy whose face is impossibly familiar, she must decide between her mission and her heart—both of which could leave Hope trapped in the past forever.      

Review

Hope believed her mother died during an earthquake months earlier overseas. Then she receives an invite to stay with her aunt in Scotland and everything changes. Hope’s family are part of a secret time traveler society and they need her help. She has seventy-two hours to go back in time and rescue her mother or be lost forever.

I love when a book doesn’t fit into a single genre. It’s a nice change and can provide quite the interesting plot. I’m a fan of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and Into the Dim is a great read-a-like for teens. This book has time travel, humor, romance, and history. It is non-stop plot action from beginning to end.

I found the love interest aspect of the novel to be quite predictable, but then Taylor threw in some curve balls and I’m intrigued to see how it plays out in future novels. Speaking of characters, I really liked them. Each character had a unique personality and secrets that made them well rounded. I feel that we get a good introduction to the characters, but the plot moved fast, which didn’t give us enough time with them. I hope to learn more about their past as the series continues.

Into the Dim appeals to many readers and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this series become the next big thing.


I received a complimentary electronic ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard | Review

<strong>A Fool and His Monet</strong> Book Cover
A Fool and His Monet Serena Jones Mystery (Book 1) Mystery, Christian Fiction Revell Paperback 338 pages Amazon

Serena Jones has a passion for recovering lost and stolen art–one that’s surpassed only by her zeal to uncover the truth about the art thief who murdered her grandfather. She’s joined the FBI Art Crime Team with the secret hope that one of her cases will lead to his killer. Now, despite her mother’s pleas to do something safer–like get married–Serena’s learning how to go undercover to catch thieves and black market traders.

When a local museum discovers an irreplaceable Monet missing, Jones leaps into action. The clues point in different directions, and her boss orders her to cease investigating her most promising suspect. But determined to solve the case and perhaps discover another clue in her grandfather’s murder, she pushes ahead, regardless of the danger.

With spunk, humor, and plenty of heart-stopping moments, Sandra Orchard gives readers an exciting string of cases to crack and a character they’ll love to watch solve them.

 

Review

Serena Jones is the newest member of the FBI’s Art Crime Squad. After completing her first undercover case, Jones is swept into solving an art theft case at the local museum. With the help of her mentor and the unwanted help of friends and family time is running out to find the thief and recover the stolen art.

I enjoyed this novel. This is a clean mystery, with very little violence. It focuses on the mystery and alludes to a love triangle, that I’m sure will surface in future novels. Although I found the pace a bit slow at times, there was a good mixture of mystery and humor to keep me interested.

This book has been classified as suspense, but I didn’t feel that the action ever got suspenseful. I was intrigued by the story and wanted to solve the crime myself, but didn’t think any plot developed into a high tension level.

I loved the characters Orchard created. Serena’s family was especially cute and it was nice to the dynamics of different personalities play out.

Overall, I thought the plot was good, the characters were entertaining, and the mystery had some twists. I look forward to reading more about Serena Jones.


 

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa | Review

Annabel Lee Book Cover
Annabel Lee Coffey & Hill (Book 1) Mystery, Christian Fiction Revell Paperback 368 pages Amazon

Fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden. That secret’s name is Annabel Lee Truckson, and even she doesn’t know why her mysterious uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He’s left her with a few German words, a barely-controlled guard dog, and a single command: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”

Above ground, a former Army sniper called The Mute and an enigmatic “Dr. Smith” know about the girl. As the race begins to find her, the tension builds. Who wants to set her free? Why does the other want to keep her captive forever? Who will reach her first?

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill need to piece together the clues and stay alive long enough to retrieve the girl–before it’s too late.

With its stunning writing and relentless pace, Annabel Lee will captivate readers from the first page.

Review

In Atlanta, Private investigator Trudi Coffey is visited by a mysterious Dr. Smith who is looking for a man. Dr. Smith thinks she knows where to find the target. Coffey knows her ex-husband, Sam Hill, probably does.

In Alabama, Annabel Lee is woken by her uncle and hidden in an underground bunker on their property. He gives her the only key and tells her not to open the door for anyone without the safe code. She doesn’t know how long she will be there.

Events from the past converge and the mystery of Dr. Smith’s identity and Annabel Lee’s survival are left in the hands of ex-spouses Coffey & Hill.

Annabel Lee is a fantastic book with continuous action and plot twists. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character. Sometimes sequences overlap, but for the most part, the chapters run chronologically. Nappa has done a wonderful job providing tidbits of information to the readers, while the characters might not yet know their connections. Although I did find aspects of the plot predictable, overall this novel keeps the reader guessing. Just when you think the characters are safe, more trouble ensues.

This novel is considered a Christian mystery. It is actually the first I have read of this genre. There are elements of Christianity and spiritual faith throughout, but it is a small aspect that any reader can enjoy the story without feeling preached to.

Fun fact: “Annabel Lee” is a poem written by Edgar Allen Poe. Nappa, a Poe fan, incorporates Poe’s poem into the novel in many clever ways. I enjoyed drawing the connections between the poem and this novel. I won’t spoil the connections for you, but look out for them while you read. It looks like the next Coffey & Hill novel is titled Raven, so I am excited to see how that Poe poem is intertwined with it (if at all).

 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


 

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe
It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.
 
 
I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.
 
 
And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.
 
 
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
 
 
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
 
 
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

My Father’s Son by John Davis | Review

My Father's Son: A Memoir Book Cover
My Father’s Son: A Memoir Memoir Outskirts Press Hardcover 158 pages Amazon

A compelling memoir of fathers, sons, and the Brooklyn streets.

Every family has secrets. Ours were just bigger than others.

“My earliest memory is of a gun.” That gun was in his father’s hand – and it was pointed at his mother’s head. John Davis grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s on the rough streets of Brooklyn, a place where no one thought twice when parents smacked around their kids—or each other. At the center of the tumultuous neighborhood, and John’s world, was his larger-than-life father, Roberto. The Argentinean butcher and kingpin drug dealer was a sadistic bully whose mercurial temper left a trail of tears and chaos across his family. John, in particular, seemed to bear the brunt of Roberto’s wildly swinging moods. Any wrong word could cause an explosion. Every knock on the door might be one of Roberto’s enemies, or the police. In his publishing debut, Davis recounts how he spent his childhood in constant terror and his teen years learning to fight back. But it was much later, as an adult, that he learned the most shocking thing of all about his father, his past, and himself. Told with raw honesty and deep emotion, My Father’s Son is a memoir of fear, abuse, survival, and identity.

 

Review

John Davis did not grow up in the most loving household. His father was verbally and physically abusive and a drug dealer. My Father’s Son is written in two parts. The first provides scenes of Davis’ childhood and interaction with his father. The second part tells a story of enlightenment and a family secret revealed during Davis’ adulthood.

My Father’s Son is a heartbreaking story of abuse. I am still in shock over this story. Davis paints a clear image of his father’s personality and brutality. Readers will witness many events, spanning over years, that show what life was like growing up in the Davis household. The focus is primarily on the father, but some stories involve the mother figure as well. Each chapter covers a different experience and Davis does a great job storytelling within those, however the transitions from chapter to chapter are a bit disconnected. As we enter the second half of this novel, the focus shifts away from the father figure  and delves into a family dynamic.

I would liked to have seen more of the narrator in this novel. We learn a lot about the family members, but I feel that Davis is holding back on his emotions. Without giving the secret away, I will say that Davis opens up about his feelings and the impact of his upbringing at the very end (especially the epilogue). I just wish we saw this more in the first half – a more personal connection to the narrator versus an outsider looking in subjectively.

I enjoyed this novel. It isn’t something I would normally pick up, but I am happy to have read it. Davis had a story tell and he did so successfully.


Disclaimer: I received a free digital version of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

Blast From Two Pasts by Kristel S. Villar | Review

<strong>Blast from Two Pasts</strong> Book Cover
Blast from Two Pasts Romance 140 pages

Fate’s been playing tricks on Cara Nicolas lately. She agrees to go on a blind date with her best friend’s fiancé’s cousin, only to discover that the guy is her first love from high school, Lucas Lobregat. Now that would have been a charming story, except that the date turns out to be one of the worst ever. And they can’t even pretend it never happened, because they’re both suddenly part of the wedding preparations.

Just as she is starting to get to know more about the boy she used to love, Oliver Sta. Maria, an old flame who owes her some closure, surprisingly shows up. With two pasts resurfacing, which will Cara choose to rekindle? Or can she have the chance to choose at all?

 


Review

This is a cute story that many will relate to. Villar does a great job of capturing the humor, joy, and frustration of relationships. This book is a quick easy read and lots of fun – very much your typical romantic comedy.

I think the writing could use some improvement, and I didn’t like it when the narrator switched from inner dialogue to talking to the reader- it threw me a little. I also did not like the best friend, I felt her character was flat and just bitter.

Overall this was a good book and I enjoyed reading the story.

Read the first six chapters here.


Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp | Review

<strong>This is Where It Ends</strong> Book Cover
This is Where It Ends Young Adult, LGBTQ Sourcebooks Fire Hardcover 288 pages Amazon

Everyone has a reason to fear the boy with the gun…

10:00 a.m.: The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.: The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m.: The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m.: Someone starts shooting.

Over the course of 54 minutes, four students must confront their greatest hopes, and darkest fears, as they come face-to-face with the boy with the gun. In a world where violence in schools is at an all-time high and school shootings are a horrifyingly common reality for teenagers, This Is Where It Ends is a rallying cry to end the gun violence epidemic for good.

I received a free e-copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

Something terrible is happening in Opportunity, Alabama. There is a shooter attacking the town’s high school. This is Where It Ends takes place within an hour and follows four students as they deal with the events unfolding.

This book will be controversial. It covers a tough topic that no one ever wants to discuss. Regardless of the topic, Nijkamp has written a compelling story with surprises, action, and emotion.

I love that this novel is written from the perspective of the victims. It was nice to see how these different people reacted to a terrible situation. I also appreciated the fact that not all narrators knew exactly what was unfolding, they were involved but outside the situation. This really showed how these tragedies can affect many people, even those not present. It is also clever that each narrator knows the shooter, so we see a little personal emotion in the connection between them.

While reading, I wanted to see into the shooter’s mind, gain a clue as to why he was doing this terrible thing. However, now that I have had time to reflect, I’m glad Nijkamp didn’t include his perspective. It wouldn’t change what happened and I wouldn’t want to have a reason to justify his actions.

I really liked this novel. I cover a strong topic that unfortunately is relevant to today’s teens. This novel is a great way to spark a conversation about violence at school. This story kept me on my toes the entire time and was an emotional roller coaster. Read this book. Tears were streaming from my face as I read the last pages.

Since the author is on the executive committee of We Need Diverse Books, I have to talk about the diversity in this one. Also, let me preface this by saying that I am all for diversity in novels and believe we should have more.

However, I have to wonder if this novel has diverse characters just to have them, or if they came through naturally. 

I want to see more diversity in novels, but I think it should be natural and not to meet a quota or agenda. The world is diverse and that is beautiful.

 

 

Airplane Rides by Jake Alexander | Review

<strong>Airplane Riders: Observations from Above</strong> Book Cover
Airplane Riders: Observations from Above Memoir AuthorBuzz eBook 156 pages Amazon

10 true conversations, anonymously conveyed by airline passengers to the author. Written under the pseudonym Jake Alexander, Airplane Rides follows a highly successful, but emotionally isolated, real life finance executive through actual conversations had with seatmates. The work takes place over a ten year period and is multidimensional across both the passenger stories told and the moral evolution of this modern day nomad who serves as our narrator. It is a unique set of social observations, provocatively unfolded through the often painful lessons learned by others. Airplane Rides captures that seductive state between where we have been, and where we are going and the possibility of finding absolution along the way.

I received a free e-version of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

Normally when one writes a memoir, the reader and author can something away from the story. In this case, I felt there was no point to this book except to say look have perverse and open strangers are.

I wanted to like this, it sounds interesting, but instead, I wound up despising the narrator and wondering why he felt the need to write this down. I don’t mind that the stories are lewd and deal with sex, however, there doesn’t seem a point to them. The author doesn’t learn anything and I don’t have a reason as to why anyone else should read this.