Genre: Contemporary

Two Steps Forward…By Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

Two Steps Forward…By Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

    The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) is a network of pilgrimage paths throughout Europe that leads to shrine of St.James in the Santiago de Compostela . ‘Two Steps Forward’ follows Marin, a Brit, and Zoe, an American as they walk the Camino.   I  read about the Camino in a previous novels but I misunderstood what it is. I thought it is like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. In fact it’s more of a pilgrimage and less of a hike. The pilgrims stay at hotels and hostels and predominantly eat at restaurants instead of camping as hikers would along the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail.   ‘Two Steps Forward’ is packed full of information about the Camino. I loved the experiences that the Camino can offer. For example a chance to challenge oneself. A chance to meet people. It is also a religious experience and a chance to really see Europe up close.   While Zoe and Martin as characters really grew as the story went along, both characters were secondary to the Camino. The Camino is a character in itself and is really the centerpiece of the story.   […]

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Stumped…By Kate Larkindale

Stumped…By Kate Larkindale

Ozzy has everything a teenager could want, good grades, a hot girlfriend, and  successful high school swimming career. When a car crash leaves him without legs  he stands to lose everything. The story begins with Ozzy planning his first intimate outing with his girlfriend, Lainey. The outing goes array and as Ozzy is driving home he gets into a devastating car accident. ‘Stumped’ has a unique take on someone dealing with a disability.  Some of the issues Ozzy goes through is truly eye-opening. One of the biggest obstacles he has  to overcome is the way others treat him. Some people in his life are really terrible to him, like his girlfriend and friends. The story left me wondering if it is because they are teenagers and they don’t know what to say and how to act or if is it just that the characters are terrible people. Ozzie then learns to find comfort from a support group for teenage amputees. Since Ozzy is a teenage boy his sex drive takes on a life of its own. One of the main focuses in the story is Ozzy’s interaction with sex workers. ‘Stumped’ takes place in New Zealand and prostitution is legal […]

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Left: A Love Story…by Mary Hogan

Left: A Love Story…by Mary Hogan

  Fay Agarra has the perfect life. She lives in a New York City with her husband, respected New York judge, Paul Agarra. Fay’s perfect life slowly begins crumbling when her ‘go to guy’ suffers an explainable episode on their dream vacation.   Where other books such as, ‘ Still Alice’ gives us a look inside the mind of those suffering from dementia,’ Left’ gives us a view of what it is to be the care giver of a dementia sufferer. Alzheimer disease is one of the most heartbreaking disease to witness. Loved ones have to witness not only the physical demise but also the mental deterioration of a once sharp and vital person.   ‘Left’ is told from Fay’s point of view.  In heartbreaking detail we realize how she uses fantasy to cope with her life situation. While, at times, Fay does come across as self-absorbed and even selfish, I remind myself that this is Fay’s story. ‘Left’ represents her inner thoughts and feelings and is an accurate example of how many caregivers feel. An accurate portrayal of the caregivers feelings, emotions, and coping mechanisms is a vital part of this book.A book that idealizes the caregivers and love ones […]

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Sneaking Out…By Chuck Vance

Sneaking Out…By Chuck Vance

‘Sneaking Out’ is the first installment in the ‘Chase’ series. The setting is an élite New England boarding school. Oliver and Luke are roommates at said school. They sneak out one night to meet up with girls. During this meet-up they witness a murder. They can’t confess up to what they know without being expelled for sneaking out (hence the title). The setting of a  boarding school in New England really intrigued me. It is interesting to take a peek inside their rules and routines. I hadn’t realized that boarding schools were so strict. The students have to have quiet time and are expected to do things like dress up for formal dinners. The whole atmosphere of the school seemed really rigid and creepy. The murder mystery storyline is interesting. Although I guessed the identity of the murderer early on, I still second guessed myself all the way through. I really didn’t connect with Luke’s back story. It just seemed farfetched and distracted from the storyline. I realize his back story experiences helped him solve the mystery but I could have done without this part of the story all together. I also found it hard to believe that teenagers would […]

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The Year of Living Awkwardly…by Emma Chasten #blogtour

The Year of Living Awkwardly…by Emma Chasten #blogtour

  “The point of the musical is that Nellie’s racism is disgusting and that you can be a cute, fun girl everyone considers so nice and still have this snake coiled in your heart. “   “It’s like Tris let go of his trapeze and he’s falling through the air, waiting for Roy to catch him, but Roy is outside the circus tent making out with the lion tamer.”   “It was a perfect fall afternoon. Cool air Lavender sky. Leaves the color of cherries. Smell of wood smoke. Sometimes New England is so New Englandly.”      Chloe Snow is a high school sophomore who is struggling with the abandonment of her mother. She also is absorbed in taking her PSA, school, boys and friends. She must keep it all together to make it through her sophomore year.     I really didn’t know much about ‘ The Year of Living Awkwardly’ going into it. It is book #2 in the Chloe Snow’s Diary series. They synopsis made Chloe sound very angsty. As I read though the diary (the story is told in diary format) I realized Chloe is typical of how many teenagers truly are. I haven’t been […]

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Burning Bright…by Chanda Stafford

Burning Bright…by Chanda Stafford

Sam is haunted by her parents death. She is at fault for what happened to them. Her punishment is to live with abusive foster parents that only care about the stipend she brings them. Sam’s life changes when she meets California boy, Ben. Ben is the son of movie star turned animal conservationist parents. What will happen when Sam becomes wrapped up in Ben’s world. To me there is two separate plots to, ‘Burning Bright’. The first is Sam’s gritty struggle to survive. She lives in a tent so as not to have to live in her foster-parents house. She is in constant fear of her foster-father. Sam also has to work in a second-hand store in order to pay for essentials such as clothing and food. She sees this as a penance for what she did to her parents. What happened to Sam’s parents is not revealed until the end of the book but it is implied that she is someway caused their parent’s deaths. This section of the story was my favorite. It delved into the world of foster care. It felt real and different and it kept me wanting to find out how  the story turned out. I […]

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The Unusual Suspects…by Dominic Carillo

The Unusual Suspects…by Dominic Carillo

Fourteen year old Bulgarian, Nia, is attacked while taking a train across Europe (she is going to face her cheating ex-boyfriend in Berlin). She is rescued by Kurt, an unlikely hero.  Kurt is a eighty-nine WWII American war veteran.   The premise of this story fascinated me from the start. I mean how often do you read a story about an eighty-nine year old man and a fourteen year old girl who become international crime suspects. It also is an amazing idea to flip points of view between Kurt and Nia. It is interesting to see the same situations through the eyes of two vastly different people.   I really love the personal and historical background that is sprinkled throughout  ‘The Unusual Suspects’. I really fell in love both Nia and Kurt. The flashback of Kurt’s budding romance with his wife is one of the sweetest love stories I have read in a while.  Kurt is one of my favorite characters of all time. He exemplifies the friendship you can develop by getting to know someone who is totally different from yourself. Nia’s character shows amazing growth along the trip, both from her own experiences and from spending time with […]

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22 Scars…by C.M. North

22 Scars…by C.M. North

Amy leads a tortured life. She has a monster for a father and a distant mother. Amy self-harms and has suicidal tendencies. Then tragedy in her life leads her in a dangerous direction.   ’22 Scars’ highlights  mental illness in teenagers. With recent events, I think a young adult book that focuses on mental health is an important thing. ’22 Scars’ did an excellent job taking on this difficult topic. I did read ’13 Reasons Why’ and found it somewhat lacking. Not only was the plot unrealistic and contrived, I don’t think that it really approaches the underling mental illnesses that drives someone to suicide. I think ’22 Scars’ approaches this subject better. Not only is Amy’s deep seeded problems explored but it also shows how her mental illness progresses through time.   ’22 Scars’ has two storylines. The connection between these storylines is not realized until late in the book. I found both storylines interesting although I did find that the one not involving teenage Amy more interesting. The main issue I had with teenage Amy’s storyline was the plethora of characters, especially Amy’s friends. There were so many I could not keep them straight. Also, the character of […]

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What I Leave Behind…by Alison McGhee #BlogTour

What I Leave Behind…by Alison McGhee #BlogTour

Will’s dad commits suicide. His childhood friend, Playa, is raped at a party. His mom works long over-night shifts as a nurse. Will then decides to take the negatives in his life and turn them into something completely wonderful.   Will’s father’s death helps him realize that everyone needs positive acknowledgement. He also realizes that sometimes it’s the little things that can make a difference. He gives small gifts and kind words to those around him ( his lonely boss, his friend Playa, a neglected little boy, an abused neighborhood dog).   OMG……This book is powerful, and wonderful, and heart wrenching ! ‘What I Leave Behind’, is a prime example of, “less is more.” There are so many books out there that are just way too long for what they are trying to say (read ‘The Goldfinch’). McGhee delivers a strong and pointed message with just one hundred chapters with one hundred words each. With this she demonstrates that you don’t need a mega size book to deliver a powerful punch.   I really loved that symbolism played such an important part in the novel. From the way that butterflies that  ‘little dude’ watches everyday to Will’s quest to recreate his […]

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No Sad Songs… by Frank Morelli

No Sad Songs… by Frank Morelli

Gabe is used to helping care for his ailing grandfather. Then tragedy strikes and thrusts eighteen-year-old Gabe into the position of primary care giver for his grandfather with dementia.   They’re so many things to love about, ‘No Sad Songs’. The thing I love most is that the book is set in the 1990’s.  This is a time period I haven’t seen a lot of in YA fiction ( or really fiction in general). The nineties are such a nostalgic time period. It is the last decade were our lives were not totally run by cell phones and computers. The simple things in the life of a teenager was very evident in this story. Gabe’s main worries are eating pizza and attracting girls.   The most important theme in, ‘No Sad Songs,’ is caring for someone with dementia. This novel really highlights the divesting situation or a child or grandchild caring for a parent or grandparent with this disease. The dementia sufferers often don’t know who they are or where they are anymore. For example, Gabe’s grandfather constantly relives his time fighting in WWII. Game’s flashbacks also really highlight Gabe’s pain as he remembers the wonderful times with his grandfather. I have read […]

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