Book Review · Contemporary · FIction · Middle Grade · Young Adult

Harbor Me

This book has been on my TBR list for a while now, and I was finally able to get a chance to read it! This was one of those books that you read in a little over and hour, and you think about for the rest of the day.

Synopsis

It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat–by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them–everything from Esteban’s father’s deportation and Haley’s father’s incarceration to Amari’s fears of racial profiling and Ashton’s adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.

Review

I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I selected this book to add to my TBR list, but I can tell you, that whatever it was, this book was more. What I thought would be a book about some kids and talks that they had, turned into a lesson about race and a life lesson that I think I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In the book, Jacqueline Woodson writes “If the worst thing in the world happened, would I help protect someone else? Would I let myself be a harbor for someone who needs it? Then she said, ‘I want each of you to say to each other: I will harbor you.’ I will harbor you.” This made me think about how many times we go through our days, only worried about ourselves. It made me think of those times that we are in a hard place, and all we do is think about how to rescue ourselves, but not how to rescue others in the same position as ourselves. I mean no offense, but sometimes, and maybe more often than not, we are a selfish people focused only on ourselves. While this book was indeed about some kids and the talks they had, it was much more. It was about kids who had to learn the hard lessons of racism and the unfairness of it all at a young age. It was about kids who had to harbor each other during this year of their lives. It was about kids who had to protect each other from bullies and from the curveballs that life throws at you. I very much enjoyed this book and the life lessons it taught me in a different way than I had heard them in the past. I will leave you with this quote:

“Before you used to hear the word immigration and it sounded like everything you ever believed in. It sounded like feliz cumpleanos and merry Christmas and welcome home. But now you hear it and you get scared because it sounds like a word that makes you want to disappear. It sounds like someone getting stolen away from you.”

Rating

About the Author

I wrote on everything and everywhere. I remember my uncle catching me writing my name in graffiti on the side of a building. (It was not pretty for me when my mother found out.) I wrote on paper bags and my shoes and denim binders. I chalked stories across sidewalks and penciled tiny tales in notebook margins. I loved and still love watching words flower into sentences and sentences blossom into stories.

I also told a lot of stories as a child. Not “Once upon a time” stories but basically, outright lies. I loved lying and getting away with it! There was something about telling the lie-story and seeing your friends’ eyes grow wide with wonder. Of course I got in trouble for lying but I didn’t stop until fifth grade.

That year, I wrote a story and my teacher said “This is really good.” Before that I had written a poem about Martin Luther King that was, I guess, so good no one believed I wrote it. After lots of brouhaha, it was believed finally that I had indeed penned the poem which went on to win me a Scrabble game and local acclaim. So by the time the story rolled around and the words “This is really good” came out of the otherwise down-turned lips of my fifth grade teacher, I was well on my way to understanding that a lie on the page was a whole different animal — one that won you prizes and got surly teachers to smile. A lie on the page meant lots of independent time to create your stories and the freedom to sit hunched over the pages of your notebook without people thinking you were strange.

Lots and lots of books later, I am still surprised when I walk into a bookstore and see my name on a book or when the phone rings and someone on the other end is telling me I’ve just won an award. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at my desk for long hours and nothing’s coming to me, I remember my fifth grade teacher, the way her eyes lit up when she said “This is really good.” The way, I — the skinny girl in the back of the classroom who was always getting into trouble for talking or missed homework assignments — sat up a little straighter, folded my hands on the desks, smiled and began to believe in me.

Audiobook · Book Review · Contemporary · Contemporary Romance · FIction · Young Adult

Only Mostly Devastated

Synopsis

Will Tavares is the dream summer fling – he’s fun, affectionate, kind – but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his happily ever after, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairy-tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted – and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.

Right? Right.

Review

This was a fun, light-hearted, and deep book all packed into one! I absolutely loved the characters that Sophie Gonzales created, especially Ollie. I must admit however, I am not sure if I would have loved them the same had I read the book instead of listening to the audio version. Narrator Mark Sanderlin really made Ollie’s character come to life and made the story that much more real. Speaking of real, while I can imagine the storyline and it happening in real life, some of Ollie’s reactions to things, especially as a teenager, seemed a bit off to me. Ollie appeared way too calm and put together. Don’t get me wrong, there are teens out there who are calm and put together, but being a gay teenager that is out in a school where being gay is joked and laughed about, and one going through as many trials as Ollie went through, I am not sure how he reacted is realistic (of note, I have no idea what it is like to be a gay teenager in this situation, I am only speculating…I do not say any of this to offend anyone or pass judgement on anyone – it is merely an observation/opinion). Overall, I loved Ollie, his family, and his friends and the story told by Sophie Gonzales.

Rating

About the Author

Sophie Gonzales was born and raised in Whyalla, South Australia, where the Outback Meets the Sea. She now lives in Melbourne, where there’s no outback in sight, but slightly better shopping opportunities. Sophie loves punk music, frilly pink skirts, and juxtapositions.

Sophie has been writing since the age of five, when her mother decided to help her type out one of the stories she had come up with in the bathtub. They ran into artistic differences when five-year-old Sophie insisted that everybody die in the end, while her mother wanted the characters to simply go out for a milkshake.

Since then, Sophie has been completing her novels without a transcriptionist.

Book Review · Psychology · Science Fiction · Young Adult

Equilibria

This month I had the pleasure of partnering with BookSirens and Vrinda Pendred to read Equilibria. Thank you to both for the gifted copy of this book.

Synopsis

Meet Anna Nolon. She is obsessive…about everything. She worries about her grades, her appearance, germs, the pattern of her footsteps, the number of syllables in the words she says, her parents’ approval, the future and, most of all, death.

It’s okay – so does everyone else. This is Equilibria: the first society built to accommodate OCD.

But when Aaron comes along – the strange new boy who doesn’t quite fit into that pristine society of Holy Balance and Order – Anna is forced to look at the dark shadows hanging over her and decide if perfection is really what she wants.

Review

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. It was an interesting read for someone who has OCD herself. Much of what Anna was going through in the book I could relate to. I think that Vrinda Pendred did a fantastic job of explaining what the disease is like, while at the same time respecting the disease for the impact that it has on people. I also think she did a fantastic job describing what the other side starts to look like when you are fighting the disease. I am not sure if that was the true plan she had, but the image of sailing away in a boat will forever be in my mind when I think about OCD. The only thing that I did not like about this book is Equilibria: the first society built to accommodate OCD. While I did need accommodations while I was fighting the disease and sometimes still today, I would never, ever want to live in the fear for always like the people of Equilibria did. I hated that the book made it seem like those with OCD should be separated and accommodated. I think that is wrong on so many levels. I know when I was fighting the disease, all I wanted was to be like everyone else…to be “normal” again. Overall, I think Vrinda Pendred writes a great story with such detail to what the characters are experiencing, especially those with OCD. She writes of the struggles and the wanting to break free with such excellent descriptions that even without a diagnosis of OCD you can experience what the characters are going through. This was a fun book to get lost in.

Rating

About the Author

Vrinda originally grew up in Arizona, but moved to England in 1999, where she now lives with her husband and their two sons. Her first novel was The Ladder, a story about two friends learning to grow through their difficult childhoods and find the light that lies inside themselves. She followed this with the YA sci-fi / fantasy series The Wisdom.

Vrinda also runs a publishing house for writers with neurological conditions, called Conditional Publications. Their first book, Check Mates: A Collection of Fiction, Poetry and Artwork about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, by People with OCD, was released in 2010 (Kindle and paperback), with future books in the pipeline.

In addition to her writing, Vrinda also does freelance proofreading and editing, and spent 9 years tutoring GCSE / A-Level English.  She holds a BA Hons in English with Creative Writing, a proofreading qualification with the Publishing Training Centre, and has completed work experience with Random House.  On the side, she sometimes writes and performs her own music and runs a herbal tea review blog with a friend.

Favourite Book Genres: YA / NA, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror

Favourite Fiction Authors: Stephen King, Michael Grant, Graham Joyce, Cassandra Clare, Brigid Kemmerer, Holly Black, James Dashner, Margaret Atwood, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Edgar Allan Poe

Action/Adventure · Book Review · Fantasy · FIction · Paranormal · Urban Fantasy · Young Adult

Witches Protection Program

I recently reconnected with Goddess Fish Promotions to be a reviewer of up and coming books. When I first read the symopsis of this book, I said to myself, “I just have to read this book.” I was excited to read this this author, Michael Okon, and see what his writing style was like as I have not ready any of this author’s other works.

Synopsis

Meet Wes Rockville – a law enforcement agent that has disgraced his family name. His father, Harris, has fired him from his job in a federal undercover branch that has been created to perform jobs that local law enforcement couldn’t handle. Harris gives his son one more chance to prove himself in a secret government organization that is 232 years old: The Witches Protection Program.

There is just one problem. Wes does not believe in witches. He is skeptical that they are real and living under the noses of him and everyone around him. Wes’ first assignment is to protect Morgan Pendragon. Her aunt, Bernadette, is the head of Pendragon Cosmetics, a billion dollar cosmetics company. Wes’ job is to figure the company’s diabolical plan to take over the world. Will Wes be able to accept that witches are real? Will Wes and long time veteran witch protector and Wes’ new partner, Alastair, be able to stop the company’s plan before it is too late?

Review

When I first read the synopsis of this book, it intrigued me right off the bat. Growing up I loved watching shows like “Charmed.” (And if you must know, I still enjoy watching it, but the original series, not the new one on the CW 🙂 ) You always here about the bad witches or the “Wicked Witch” in movies like “Wizard of Oz.” I was fascinated by the prospect that there could be good witches that protect the world for the greater good.

As I started to read the book I was not sure if it was going to live up to the expectations that I had given the book after reading the synopsis. The book started out a little slow for me and I was not sure where it was going to go, however after reading 30+ pages, the book really picked up and it was full of the action and adventure that I expected. The book was full of great writing and descriptions that made it easy to imagine exactly what was happening. The descriptions Michael Okon provided in this book made the book an excellent and exciting read. Once started, I could not put this book down. I hope that there will be more books written by Michael Okon that will continue to story of Wes, Alastair, and the Witness Protection Program!!!

Rating

Raffle

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Excerpt from Witches Protection Program

The narrator filled in more information. “It wasn’t until this land became my land that the government decided to create an organization to protect women at risk. The Davina Doctrine went against everything that the Willas stood for. Even though they ran the risk of persecution, the Davinas chose to work with law enforcement to expose the evil deeds of the rival sisterhood. President George Washington established secret legislation under Title VI of the Control Act of 1792. The law was enacted to protect the good witches that exposed the evil deeds of their sisterhood.”

The screen went dark. There was only a chair in the center of a dimly lit stage. A single spotlight focused on the top of the blond actress’s head. Wes was right; it was the actress he’d suspected. She had a hit sitcom and two Emmys, and there was some recent Oscar talk about her last movie.

“Yes. There are witches. Living among us. They are women who believe in using their power to protect love and life. And then there are some who use their powers for all the wrong reasons.”

The camera came to rest on her beautiful face. She winked saucily as she placed a triangular witch’s hat on her head. “Welcome to the Witches Protection Program.”

Alastair smiled broadly. “I love that part.”

“That was Jennifer Anis—”