The Ring Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Last week I connected with BLKDOG publishing, a new independent publisher. I’m super duper excited to read these amazing books and share my thoughts with all of you.

The Ring, by Sarah Anne Carter, is a military romance book that will take you on an emotional roller coaster of love.

In all honesty, I wasn’t crazy about the start of the book. The main character, Amanda, meets Lucas while she’s working at a coffee shop. She repeatedly says that she doesn’t want to get seriously involved with a military man, but doesn’t really discuss why too much. I would have liked for the character to dive deeper into her reasons and open up to readers a smidge more. I felt the first few chapters were a little rushed and it was hard for me to connect with Amanda because I wasn’t getting enough of her.

However, once Amanda and Lucas start dating there’s a shift and as a reader I was not only able to connect with Amanda, but I felt emotionally involved.

I was definitely drawn to the innocence and simplicity of the dating relationship between Amanda and Lucas. There was no mention of social media, no drama, or bedroom activity. It was refreshing to see love blossom between two characters in such an authentic and traditional way.

As a character, I really like how determined Amanda is. She has her own personal goals that are realistic and she will do whatever it takes to achieve them. She works two jobs to pay her way through school, which is NOT an easy thing to do. She studies her butt off to earn her teaching certification and get a full time job. I LOVE that she doesn’t stop pursuing her dreams just because she meets a guy.

Personally, no one in my immediate family has ever been in the military, so I don’t have personal experience with deployments. The author did a lovely job explaining all of the military jargon that Lucas used, and kept the events simple enough for someone like me to understand.

Carter also did a really great job of communicating how strong the military community is. I really loved how she included the different events that military wives created among themselves, like book club. As a complete outsider to this world, I was able to get a sense of how much of a family military life can be, and the incredible bond between all of those involved.

The longer Amanda and Lucas are married, the more we see the true sacrifices of being married to the military. This book had me in tears and took me on such an emotional roller coaster. The plot twists were crafted beautifully and implemented seamlessly. I can’t say any more than that because you just have to read it to appreciate the strength of the incredible women married to military men.

If you’re looking for a sweet story that takes you on an emotional roller coaster, this book is perfect for you.

To purchase this book click here.

Swimming Sideways Book Review

It’s no secret that I LOVE a good YA novel. I’ve realized that I tend to gravitate towards dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi work, so it was nice escaping into a a realistic fiction piece.

Swimming Sideways, by C.L. Walters, is a relatable YA novel that focuses on the importance of family, love and friendship.

Our main character, Abby, has just moved from Hawaii to Oregon with her family (parents and twin brothers). Her parents are hoping for a fresh start so they can work on their marriage. Abby is hoping for a fresh start because of events that were out of her control in her old school (that involved social media).

As an older sibling myself, I love how protective Abby is when it comes to her family. Even though she is hurting from her own social media situation, she hides it from all the members of her family so they don’t have to worry, suffer, etc. She carries her secret alone and deals with the emotional side effects. Her pain is felt in the first few pages and readers question why there’s a Good Abby and a Bad Abby.

Abby’s home life is also not as clean as one would hope. It’s clear that her parents are having marital problems and the family is struggling emotionally. Usually, the YA books I read only focus on the love part of being a teenager, but Swimming Sideways also tackles the reality of problems at home. The realness that Walters created with this conflict not only puts readers in Abby’s shoes, but also shows adults how children are affected by words and actions. The use of Abby’s point of view really does shed light on how a teenager interprets experiences.

As with any great piece of literature, there’s a little bit of a love triangle. Abby spent time in Oregon growing up with her grandma, who happened to be neighbors with Seth. The two of them pick their friendship right up and start to date. Meanwhile, Abby is fascinated by the school “freak” Gabe, and makes friends with him. And just to thicken the plot, Gabe and Seth used to be best friends. If I say anymore I will give away some of the plot, but Walters does a beautiful job of showing readers that friendship is the foundation of a good dating relationship.

One of my favorite characters was Abby’s new best friend Hannah. Hannah approaches Abby in the cafeteria on her first day of school and goes out of her way to make Abby feel welcome. Through all that happens over the course of the novel, Hannah never leaves Abby’s side, providing a safety blanket that teenage girls need, especially in social situations. This reminds readers that it isn’t the quantity of friends, but the quality that is most important. There were a few times I wanted to reach through the pages and hug Hannah for being a true friend.

As a teacher, I know some of the situations my students have dealt with in their personal lives. What really drew me into this story was how so many real life situations are woven into this text. Dealing with relationships, family problems, abuse, social media, and the social pressure of being a teenager all come together in such a realistic way. The ending does leave readers on an intense cliff hanger, so be prepared.

This was one of those books that I stayed up all night reading. I messaged C.L. Walters on Instagram the next day because I had to tell her how sucked in I was (and that I was grateful the second book was already out).

I would recommend this book for students in grades 9-12, parents of teenagers, and teachers working with high school students.

For more information check out the author’s website here

The Fever King Book Review

I really feel like my TBR pile has exploded in the last few weeks. I feel truly touched that authors and agents have reached out to me for book reviews, so be prepared for a lot of great new texts appearing on this little blog in the near future.

In the past I have reviewed books I’ve won from Goodreads giveaways (see Dating a Quarterback Secret #3). Today I’m sharing another one of my wins!

Fever King, by Victoria Lee, is a YA political novel about trust, love, and change.

The setting is futuristic in America that is no longer the country we all know. We follow Noam, a teenage boy, as he navigates the world among refugees, a virus, and a very tense political climate. Early on, Noam is infected with the virus and turns into a witching (a survivor of the virus with magical powers). His magic is so special, he is to be trained with the most elite witchings and has private tutoring sessions with Lehrer. Lehrer is the most powerful witching, who survived the catastrophe that transformed America over a hundred years ago.

In all honesty, it took me a while to wrap my head around the history of story. While texts like The Hunger Games are super straightforward about the history, Fever King was not as upfront. There are bread crumbs here and there to provide the reader with more background (letters, videos, etc), but it was hard for me to keep all of the information straight. I’m also not very big into politics to begin with, so my brain isn’t used to reading about political issues in a text. In my opinion, this text is a HUGE social commentary, and the timing of it is perfect with our current society.

I realized while reading this text, that most popular YA novels have a female main character, so it was quite a treat to have a male one. Noam is an incredibly intelligent, mature and responsible individual. It is also revealed that he is bi-sexual, which I loved. Since it is a YA book, there is a hint of romance, but it is not the center of the plot. Noam is a character that does wrong things for the right reason. He has difficulties trusting others and takes this very seriously. He is an extremely loyal individual, until he has a reason not to be.

I can honestly say I haven’t read any other books that are similar to Fever King. Between the heavy politics, bi-sexual romance, and complicated relationships, this book keeps readers on their toes. While reading the last few chapters, I found myself skipping lines to find out what happens next.

One aspect that caught my eye right away was style of writing. Usually YA books are written on a less complex writing level, making it user friendly for readers in middle school. Fever King‘s sophisticated writing is definitely geared towards an older audience, I would suggest sophomores and up. I can’t wait for the next book!!

Under the Scars Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Events that happen, people that walk in and out of life, and books that we read. This summer I’ve been soul searching and setting up a new business (more of that to come in the future). I somehow connected with an author through Instagram and made arrangements to review her book. Being 100% honest, I read this book in one night. I stayed up til 2 am reading because I was so emotionally invested in the story.

Under the Scars, by Isabella Morgan, is a true love story that grips readers from the very first page.

I have read Twilight (team Jacob) and 50 Shades of Grey. While both of those stories portray unrealistic love stories, Under the Scars is the complete opposite (in a good way). Violet and Nick have a summer romance that develops into true love. After a very difficult break up, the story really starts four years later when Violet’s mother is battling cancer. As luck would have it, Nick turns out to be Violet’s mom’s doctor.

The POV shifts back and forth between Nick and Violet, which I really enjoyed. There’s definitely more from Violet’s POV, but the placement of Nick’s thoughts/experiences allows readers to get a more well-rounded feeling of the plot. Violet is anything but a whiny, immature character. Her strength is mind blowing, especially once readers get more insight into her history, and her thoughts and actions are spot on.

Nick is first described as a typical ladies man, but readers quickly can see that his soft spot for Violet clearly suggests otherwise. Not only is he an attractive doctor, he also has the biggest heart I have come across in literature thus far in my reading life. He is the ideal man and I would marry him in a heart beat.

I was also a fan of the dialogue. I tend to gravitate towards realistic conversations between characters, and this novel delivers! There are curse words used (including the f bomb), and their placement is totally perfect. The conversations between characters are raw, honest, and filled with emotions.

In terms of plot, holy moly!! I loved the breadcrumb trail of clues Morgan leaves readers. Some were so tiny I wondered if I was overthinking, but there were definitely some twists I did not predict (which is rare). I thought the plot moved along seamlessly, and the build up to the climax was paced really well. Not once did I skip ahead because I was losing interest. Personally, I stopped a few times because the text was so mind blowing I needed a second to digest.

I tend to be an active reader, I’m always highlighting or making notes with lines I like. I have never highlighted so many amazing lines than in this book. I’m a sap for good quotes and there were just so many. The love between Nick and Violet is so pure and deep, and the language that Morgan incorporates is beyond beautiful.

The book ended with an Author’s Note that made me want to hug Morgan. I was also shocked and amazed that this is not only her first book, but it took five years to write. To say this is a book of love is an understatement.

However, the cherry on top for me was the playlist included at the end of the book. The author and I totally share the same taste in music (“Fighter” by Christina Aquilera) and I could totally see us being best friends in real life. The songs included fit the story PERFECTLY! She also introduced me to “When I Look at You” by Miley Cyrus, which I’m now obsessed with.

Due to language, some sexual and mature content, I would recommend this book for juniors and seniors in high school and older.

Ben’s Adventures: A Day at the Beach Book Review

I’m taking a little break from YA and diving back into some picture books. As I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE being part of such a phenomenal book community on social media. Today’s author shared her book in a Facebook group that we are both in, and I instantly knew I wanted to share this title.

Ben’s Adventures: A Day at the Beach by Elizabeth Gerlach, is a heartwarming story about a little boy with Cerebral Palsy who dreams about a day at the beach with his family.

I have to be honest, I had tears in my eyes while I read this picture book. I fell in love with Ben instantly. His positive outlook on life and use of imagination melted my heart. In the first few pages, Ben introduces us to his family (he’s a triplet!), mentions that he has Cerebral Palsy, and explains that he can’t walk or talk. However, that doesn’t stop this little boy from enjoying his family and life.

Ben’s imagination is inspiring. He does not let his limitations keep him from experiencing the sand on his toes or the wind in his hair. One of my favorite pages is when Ben is building a sandcastle with a friend. Ben accidentally kicks one of the towers, and his friend’s reaction is spot on. His friend laughs off the tower destruction and mentions they will come up with a new plan. I love the powerful message of friendship that comes through this page, which encourages readers to be easy going and accomodating.

I also really enjoyed that Ben’s imagination has him spending time with members of his family. He does not spend the day alone, but rather bonds with his immediate family. He flies a kite with his daddy and looks for shells with Ava and Colin. The most touching moment of the story was when Ben’s mommy tucks him in at night. I think little details like this demonstrate to young readers the importance of spending time with family, and the fun and memories that can be had.

I think this book would be a phenomenal addition to a home library and a classroom library for preschool and kindergarten. I love that it promotes acceptance, hope, and diversity. I’m so excited for Ben’s next adventure.

For more information about Ben and the book, please click here.

 

Bound in Silver Book Review

I’m currently on a YA kick and I’m enjoying every second of it. I keep finding myself taking screenshots of books that I see on Instagram, which is how I found out about this lovely text.

Bound in Silver, by Marie Grace, is the total YA fantasy fangirl novel.

We follow Arabella Grace as she navigates the typical teenage issues (school, boys, the death of her grandparents) but her world gets turned upside down when she discovers she is a Clock Keeper. As readers, we experience her training, changes in her relationships with those around her, and the strides Arabella makes with her personal growth.

As a die hard YA fangirl myself, I LOVED all of the amazing references to Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, City of Glass, etc. I truly felt that the character of Arabella embodies girls like me (minus the super hero thing), which made me want to be her best friend. The first person narration made so many text to text connections (there were one or two I actually did not know) which made me appreciate the plot more because I was able to understand the significance of the events.

And just like all fabulous YA novels, there was a love story in the mix of fighting, Shadows, swords, and nightmares. However, unlike Twilight, this text downplays the love to explain more of the plot to set up future books. There is no mushy gushy nonsense happening. Each Clock Keeper has an Anam Cara, a true soulmate. As a romantic, I fell in love with this concept. It did remind me of parabatai from City of Bones, but on a much more intimate scale. The vow that is spoken to connect Anam Caras together is beyond beautiful and it should totally be part of future wedding vows for book lovers.

As a teacher, I really appreciated how the author was able to capture teenage thoughts without including curse words and nudity. It’s a little more conservative than Divergent and City of Bones, but the feelings and emotions are still powerful between the characters.

One of the overall themes of the novel is good vs. evil, and we see that with the constant mention of light and dark imagery. The Shadows, white ink tattoos, black ink tattoos, all express the importance of good vs. evil in the plot. Personally, I enjoyed how obvious the symbolism was because it allowed me as a reader to enjoy the story more. For struggling readers, especially high school students, this is a great way for them to make inferences and draw conclusions without feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.

Without giving away any spoilers, I will say the plot kept me engaged, and it really ramped up the last two chapters. All of a sudden the book was over and I was left wanting more. The end doesn’t stop abruptly, but it definitely makes you want to start the second book right away (which I am trying very to wait patiently for).

Overall, I would recommend this book for any YA fantasy fans in grades 6-12.

Celebrate Book Review

It’s wedding season!! My social media accounts have pictures and posts at least once a week of a wedding. It’s that time of year where love is definitely being celebrated.

Celebrate by Christine Reynebeau, and illustrated by Kimberly Wix, is a delightful story about honoring a couple getting married.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of doing a virtual author visit with Christine. She is an absolutely amazing woman who is filled with determination and energy. She totally inspired me to push through my slump I was in, and I will always be grateful for that.Christine Author Visit

Usually stories about weddings focus on dramatic emergencies or details about the dress and flowers, but Celebrate takes a different approach. The story really explores how meaningful marriage is and highlights the importance of a wedding as a new beginning instead of just a big party. For instance, when discussing the bridal party, the author writes, “The wedding party is filled with people who are important to the pair, asked to stand at the altar, as people who have always been there.” Instead of merely just saying friends and family stand with the bride and groom, Reynebeau dives into the deeper meaning and significance.

I was also a HUGE fan of the illustrations for this book. There is something about it looking like a child drew the pictures that adds a warm and fuzzy feeling. Personally, I think that it definitely helps the appeal for younger audiences. I also love how the illustrations incorporate diversity.

The structure of the text is simple. There is a sentence on each page with simple vocabulary words and a smidge of rhyming. It’s perfect for toddlers to beginner readers. It’s an ideal book to use when discussing weddings with children, especially if they are in the wedding.